"Next Train Out of Town" by the Dirt Road BandReview
Do you like irony? I usually do, though this one has left me looking a bit foolish in terms with my keeping up with the zeitgeist…. When I described "What's Going Down" by the Dirt Road Band last week as their debut single, I was, I suppose being technically correct but the band are way ahead of me in terms of release formats & the irony is that much as I appreciated the sounds they are producing from their sessions at Woodbine Street & linking them to sounds from the past (in a totally complementary way), they are not releasing singles in the 1976 fashion, but dropping a track a week (of the first four so far recorded for their debut album) in 2023 style.
Therefore "What's Going Down" has already been followed up by today's "Next Train Out of Town" before any of us has had time to pause for breath.
The mood remains the same: a similar sense of confrontation and menace which I loved last week & which as I said, took me back to what I think the peculiarly British take on R&B (which kind of reached its zenith in the Pub Rock bands who mutated into punk): not the sort of people you'd think you'd want to bump into in an alleyway on a dark night: Steve's vocal if anything is even more dark & desperate than on the last one.
Much as I liked the breakneck ferocity of "What's Going Down", I suspected that the band would not replicate the musical feel: they are far too experienced & tasteful to do that, and so it turns out: "Next Train Out of Town" channels its emotions through a more sinister, measured speed: which if anything makes for an even more compelling impact.
The guitar solo here is just as vicious in its tone as last time: stabbing home its jabs to complement the lyrics while the rhythm section stalks menacingly behind with an ominous groove, relentless in its delivery.
In just two tracks, the Dirt Blues Band have shown that you can, if you know how, convey equivalent emotions in completely different ways to similar effect: and all within the context of the blues. This one simmers with the brooding intensity of Howlin' Wolf (and he was another one who gave the impression that you'd be better off not crossing).
The Dirt Road Band could easily have taken other routes (using other roots too) to debut their own material (in fact I imagine that they'd still sell out venues on performing covers alone): there are plenty of blues bands offering various, agreeable takes on the blues: some might be consistent with the technical requirements of the genre but rather a long way from the emotional original sources.
To their great credit, the band are determined to go for maximum credibility & produce original music which is not necessarily comfortable listening but authentic in terms of reflecting the dark roots of the blues and which is impossible to ignore: these songs engage with the audience and if you are not moved by them, then you must be rather lacking in sensitivity to the real thing.
The blues was born out of harsh circumstances & came to wider attention through the work of artists with the most appalling biographies of suffering & ill-use. Out of respect to them, it should not be an easy listening genre, regardless of using the "right" scales, licks etc: though too often it is. The Dirt Road Band are showing due respect to the music which they love & the artists who inspired them by writing material like "Next Train Out of Town" or "What's Going Down": barbed, dynamic songs which channel anger, frustration, cynicism & pain: and doing it very well.
Look out for the next two instalments over the coming fortnight. You won't be able to ignore them.
You can access "Next Train Out of Town" via this link: https://dirtroadband.bandcamp.com/track/next-train-out-of-town