Tuesday, July 19, 2011
CD Album Review- The Dirt Drifters- This Is My Blood
Made up of lead singer/guitarist Matt Fleener, vocalist/guitarist Ryan Fleener, vocalist/guitarist Jeff Middleton, bassist Jeremy Little and drummer Nick Diamond, The Dirt Drifters bring backgrounds of country, rock, funk and R&B to their roadhouse country. After several years together, road-tested, club-polished, they signed to Warner Bros. Records, which is turning them loose with their first album called This Is My Blood. The album is produced by Justin Niebank, known for his work with Vince Gill, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, among others.
It's not often that I get to hear a band play live in person before I hear their first recorded album, but in the case of The Dirt Drifters, such was the instance. The five-piece band played back-to-back nights in a Sacramento children's charity fundraiser in early May with 14 other country music acts and brought the house down both nights. With a high-energy short list of songs set to a gritty country-rock sound with great harmonies- it resulted in a cross between John Mellencamp and Steve Earle. They wove those stories with great musicianship and stage presence. It resulted into great anticipation to see if that energy and personality could be transferred to disc on This Is My Blood. To the benefit of The Dirt Drifters and their producers, they succeeded mightily.
The album opens up to their first radio single that just cracked the Mediabase Top 50, "Something Better." It's a well-played high-energy terrific tale of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. It captures their live energy well and was a great first release to identify the band as a whole. For the Y and i generations, this just could be an anthem. With a glut of small-town-usa-my-hometown-southern-way-of-life-is-so-great songs on the radio dial, the Drifters take on "Always A Reason To Drink Around Here" is a refreshing twist and flip side of that coin. The blue collar themes are many across the album and they're not always championed- they're celebrated and lamented equally. It creates a more believable and realistic set of lyrics- and more personable because of it. On "Hurt Somebody," the band contrast beautiful ballad harmonies with the lyrics of self-destructive love. "You use your red lipstick like a loaded gun," are indicative of the great storytelling on this and other tracks. Gunsmoke, cheap perfume and gold bands on nightstands are the props on the outstanding story-song "Married Men and Hotel Rooms." It's a fantastic tale of lust, deception and the danger of a woman scorned. The great blue-collar champion himself, Willie Nelson, makes a delicious guest star on "I'll Shut Up Now" which then leads into the killer blue collar themed "Name On My Shirt." The song opens with the belief that a name sewn on a shirt is the trigger for a cursed life filled with dirt, grease and unfulfilled dreams. As the protagonist grows older, he realizes it as a badge of honor fulfilling a family legacy through a lifestyle and employment choice. It's beautifully well-written, smart and doesn't gloss over the hardships of rural living in its storytelling.
The complaints are minor. The last three tracks don't have as much lyrical teeth as the first eight tracks and the musical bridge/break into a rocking version of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" in the middle of their live version of "Married Men and Motel Rooms" is nowhere to be found on the album. Perhaps that will be something to look forward to as an added bonus track on their second album.
Overall, the album is a phenomenal piece of work and easily ranks in the top ten of albums we've heard thus far this year.
A modern version of everything that was great about early John Mellencamp
Married Men and Hotel Rooms
Name On My Shirt
Four stars out of five