Friday, 13 September 2013

DIrty Streets - Blades of Grass (album review)

I posted a rant last night subtitled "What is wrong with radio".  The Dirty Streets are yet another perfect example of what is wrong with radio.  Their absence from its tinny airwaves practically defines the argument.  This Memphis based outfit cuts three minute hard rock songs like a trio of restless pharmacists and yes, the pills they create are habit forming.  Don't be surprised if they rattle in your pocket.

On their latest full-length, 'Blades of Grass', The Dirty Streets light their riffs in the aquamarine tints of bluegrass.  Twanging hints of it sway in the powerful breeze of most of the eleven tracks on the album.  It's a throwback kind of sound, or more accurately, one that never dies.  What isn't highlighted by a folky corn pone accent is draped in the silky smooth ghost of Sam & Dave, Booker T & the MG's or even the JB's.  This is rock n roll, soul was just another name for it and a particular style in the mid 1960's.  You don't hear too many great blue eyed soul bands these days, but The Dirty Streets hold their own with the likes of The Small Faces.  This comparison is apt in the soulful crooning of both "No Need To Rest" and its immediate follow-up, the country / quasi-mystic "Movements #2" and especially on mod / soul / psych head nodder "Truth".

That all said, what comes across, loudly and clearly is that this is a band that has done it's homework.  A band that loves doing homework, matter of fact.  A band that doesn't limit itself to one genre or one era of musical exploration.  The heavy-handed guitar picking spirit of Leadbelly stops by for a drink, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding come around to shoot the shit.  Iggy, The Stooges, the MC5 and the Flamin' Groovies return from the liquor store with a couple extra goodies scored in the parking.  Hell, even Spencer Davis and Stevie Winwood drop by occasionally at the apartment these guys share with contemporaries The Heavy Eyes on their way to a Black Keys show.  Above all else however is the presence of the riff in all its sunbursted glory.

The basis of Dirty Streets music is the funky, groovy riff and on that front, this band is one of the best in the business.  All the country twanging folky soulfulness that floats about is so much dressing around the big heavy riff.  There are too many great ones on 'Blades of Grass' to mention, just understand that this album is a riff-o-rama from beginning to end.  No surprise there for those who are familiar with their previous album, 'Movements' (I still haven't heard their first album 'Portrait of a Man', but I'll just go right ahead and assume it's equally riff-tacular).  The title track is a good place to start when looking for a first song to check out, its follow-up "Keep an Eye Out" is no backwards step in quality either.  If this band steps backward it's only to build up a head of steam to strut five steps forward.

Collectively, 'Blades of Grass' is a strutting journey around their hometown, absorbing along the way the rich musical heritage of Soulsville, USA.  After last night's rant, it's nice to follow up with a review of an album that will restore your faith in music and its continuing possibilities.  It's no easy feat to take something old and make it feel exciting, fresh and new all over again.  This is a stunning album.  Recommended for all.

Highlights include: "Blades of Grass" and "Truth"

Rating: 4.5/5

1). Stay Thirsty (3:28)
2). Talk (3:49)
3). No Need To Rest (3:24)
4). Movements #2 (3:06)
5). Try Harder (3:37)
6). Blades of Grass (3:44)
7). Keep an Eye Out (3:17)
8). Heart of the Sky (3:52)
9). Truth (4:35)
10). Twice (2:45)
11). I Believe I Found Myself (3:26)
Total Run Time: 38:57

From: Memphis, Tennessee

Genre: Rock, Soul, Blues, Psychedelic

Reminds me of: Ape Skull, Black Crowes, Five Horse Johnson, The Heavy Eyes, Small Faces

Release Date: July 9, 2013

The Dirty Streets on facebook


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