The Damned And Dirty – Hoodoo Down – Album Review
Blues-rock/Roots-rock have always been a tougher genre for me to judge. With its sound usually so steeped in staunch-tradition…it’s often harder to hear the uniqueness in any given band due to the similarities between riffs & sound alone. What CAN separate you from the rest, is how you play these standards and fuse it all together…and perhaps add some additional personality or something to the vocals to make them stand out like The Damned And Dirty have on their new album Hoodoo Down.
As “Hoodoo Down,” the album’s title-track began with its stomping-beat and sliding guitar-riffs leading the way into our experience with The Damned And Dirty – I realized quickly that while we might not be in for something that sounds altogether new, I was about to go on a real adventure into music made by people that truly LOVE it. You can hear the passion immediately in the opening tune – the duo of Micha Sprenger & Kevin de Harde immediately begin to sparkle & shine as they sing & play with crystal-clarity & precision right from the opening moments on their new album.
Picking up the pace in “Someone To Ride The River With” – The Damned And Dirty really bring out the storyteller-aspect in their lyrics and the personality on the microphone. This is entertainment – this is performance – this is definitely a solid tune from this two-piece band and you can hear just how much fun an act like this would be in an intimate live-setting. Excellent guitar-work…the slight-additional synth-sounds fill in the background perfectly with a dusty-feel to this outlaw-anthem. It has aspects of Folk, Rock, Americana…The Damned And Dirty already prove they’ve got a lot more up their sleeve and in their hearts than just the blues.
Though it’s a tough moment to celebrate…”Turmoil” is a perfect song for right now. Taking on politics, greed, social-commentary and so much more – “Turmoil” is one of those songs that people need to hear…not just listen…but really HEAR. Excellent words and music to go with it…there’s a massive-contrast to the tone of the lyrics and the way the melody works…and I dig that. Where “Turmoil” takes the energy a step back towards a more minimal and isolated-feel in the music & production – “The Devil’s Vacation” steps it all back up again. With additional harmonica & piano…this is the kind of blues I love right here…smooth as all-hell; “The Devil’s Vacation” stays cohesive to their sound with its dedication to precision, but also like the rest on the album, never feels like they force it. The swagger & sway of “The Devil’s Vacation” is a fantastic roam through the wildness of the Blues and really sounds like this band is right in their element on this song.
Cause again…to hammer-home the point…the difference in The Damned And Dirty all comes down to execution – these two are flawless and right at home with these songs – they’ve come out wickedly-perfect all throughout this record…and they should be proud of that. Songs like “The Porch Light” also shine brightly with their additional backup vocals sparkling in the chorus and harmonica once again standing-out for an incredible performance. Guitar-solos echo throughout “The Porch Light” and with breakdowns, bring-backs and ramped-up choruses…this song has a similar magic to the music of Joe Cocker and how he always made music that seemed to continually develop & envelop as it played.
I dunno…I don’t think I’m all that crazy…I actually think these guys are actually THAT good. When “Got Me A Good Heart” began to play with its sweetness and tiny-sound…man did that EVER bring a huge hammock-wide smile to my face…and as I sat here I actually wondered aloud for the first time that I can ever truly recall: ‘maybe I DO really like the Blues after all…’
So take that as a sincere compliment gentlemen…you’ve certainly won me over already and we’re only halfway through the record! The focus and precision-play in these complex rhythms are of the highest quality…Hoodoo Down is quite an inspiring listening experience.
Of course…as soon as I had felt that way…I immediately began to wonder if I was right when the jangled-beginning to “The Golden Stairs” took place. This one…not gonna lie…took a few more listens than the rest just to get my mind around how it all works. Spoiler alert – I’ve had my coffee now – and it all makes perfect sense…but it does take the vocals and stretch the words more than the previous tracks as it winds through the verse…which…yeah…it’s a weirder-one, but it does work. Particularly, it sets up the bright-chorus of “The Golden Stairs” and really has some standout performances from both the lead & backup vocals guiding this track through the rhythm.
“Bad Day” kinda made my day better – is that wrong? Another isolated & minimal-style tune taking it back to the acoustic-rhythm and harmonica-combo – this traditional-sound is made anew with a tremendously-innocent and tender recording. It’s definitely Blues…but its isolated nature and sparkling production really draw you in to listen close to its captivating sound & performance from this duo. “Alley Cat” gets a little dangerously close to The Brian Setzer Orchestra and that whole-mess of silly/happy stuff…it never fully crosses the line and I can’t deny just how much fun this song really is. BUT! But I say! But if it wasn’t for the award-winning performance from the saxophone…MAYBE this song might have been more trouble for me – BUT…because of that performance alone being so full of vibrant-personality & charged-up charisma…I gotta hand it to’em, I was digging “Alley Cat” just as quickly as the rest, despite my natural inclinations to resist it.
BUT! Okay…last one of these, I promise…but…if you wanna know where I’m at personally…it’s in these more minimal tunes; the magic in the music and lyrics in “Tell You About The Blues” are some of the best on the record as far as I’m concerned. The violin is SUPERB…and it really gives that old-timey-feel to this entire song, working perfectly with the guitar and vocal-melody. Absolutely loved this quaint little tune…it’s got a massively-endearing sound to its beautiful & gentle-flow.
“Walking Stereotype” might be one of the smartest songs I’ve heard this year. The tongue-in-cheek attitude of the lyrics and how it matches the familiarity of this blues-rock tune…it’s brilliant. Saving us music-journalists all the trouble of scratching our heads & beards for comparisons…The Damned And Dirty have said it all for us in this tune, pointing out the obviousness of the music & style through the lyrics and if I’m not mistaken, poking a little fun at themselves on this tune. If I’ve misread any of this…truly sorry! I don’t think that’s the case…I think “Walking Stereotype” more than others, truly reflects the fun-loving aspect of this band and how the duo might play like serious-professionals but don’t spend their time taking it ALL so seriously in their attitude. It’s fun, it’s smart…I love writing like this that really shows some heart, truth and playfulness without sounding silly…again, there’s some truth in these words they sing here on this song; they know it, they love it, they embrace it. Salute!
Bringing it back to a swinging-groove with their brilliant swagger-style melodies and rhythm, the final song “The End Of The Road” perfectly sums-up the record and takes it to a conclusive ending. There has been zero-complaints from me about the way this record has been recorded, played & performed…and that’s not about to change now; “The End Of The Road” takes a light-rock approach to its Blues-structuring and still keeping it fairly-minimal, The Damned And Dirty come out stunning once again in their last track. I think these two have made every decision right on this record truthfully…and not being your everyday average Blues-fan here, I can tell you with complete confidence that this record was entertaining well-beyond my expectation; these two guys are pros for sure and their love of the craft smiles enormously throughout the sparkling performances and radiant-melodies of Hoodoo Down.
Find out more about The Damned And Dirty at their official page: http://www.thedamnedanddirty.com/
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