"Cheap Talk & Whiskey" "Don't Count for Nothing" by Dirt Road Band

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"Cheap Talk & Whiskey" "Don't Count for Nothing" by Dirt Road Band

Review

I am reliably advised that the debut album by the Dirt Road Band (appropriately enough it'll be called ‘Righteous': because they are) is now completed and ready for pressing, so hopefully it'll be available to you very soon: I'll be reviewing it for you in due course too.

In the meantime, to give you both a taste of the delights in store and enable you to savour each new song on its own merits, the band have been sharing some individually.

I told you a little about both "What's Going Down" and "Next Train Out of Town" back last August (they date from the first batch of sessions with John Rivers at Woodbine Street Studio in Leamington) but unfortunately due to personal distractions at the time, I missed writing about "Don't Count for Nothing" in September.

The sharing of "Cheap Talk & Whiskey" now from the second set of sessions however gives me the chance to repair that omission while bringing you fully up to date with the original work which Steve Walwyn, Horace Panter & Ted Duggan have been creating to go with the many fine covers which made up their superb setlists when the band first got together.

Both are Steve's compositions yet I think within them both (and the narratives are contrasting) you can hear plenty of accumulated wisdom from the band (there have been plenty of calculations of the combined professional musical experience and it's impressive to say the least). Obviously that includes the chops of three artists long at the top of their profession (this is a rare example of my being able to write in a Coventry & Warwickshire music magazine about musicians with global profiles: though I live in hope of doing it more often) but more than that, they love this music. You'll probably all be aware that not so long ago both Steve & Horace were playing in commercially very successful & well known bands and now that's no longer the case. This then is a chance to combine their talents & musical preferences into something done out of love without the pressures of expectations which being in "name" bands can impose. Well I say that, but looking at how in demand they already are as a live proposition and anticipating the increased response once the album comes out, no doubt DRB audience expectations will soar accordingly. Which is not a bad thing.

One should also take account of the fact that they relish playing together: that explains the genesis of the group (actually for a one off event which then didn't actually take place) and is evident from what you hear. John also speaks of how enjoyable the sessions were.

The other aspect of the shared wisdom is in the lyrics: they seem to tip their hats to the lives & experiences on the road & in the business of working musicians. If "Cheap Talk & Whiskey" provides vignettes of the places they've all played & the sights they've all seen, then in "Don't Count for Nothing" one can detect the weary cynicism of "real" life as a musician: the struggles with finding success, being let down & exploited and the interminable drives between gigs (and long after this song was recorded, the DRB were stranded in the small hours when their van broke down recently: even with their stature you are not protected from those issues). In some ways I suppose it can be seen as a sequel to his own solo song "Instinct to Survive".

I certainly had no intention of reviewing these two songs as a pair, but as that's how things have fallen, it's interesting how they contrast & I suppose are a little microcosm of DRBmusic. On one hand you have the lyrically more upbeat "Cheap Talk & Whiskey" and on the other the grimmer more existential "Don't Count for Nothing". Reflecting this dichotomy are the accompanying styles. The former showcases their love of the "source" material: the authentic American blues sound. The latter is much more like that material as filtered through the British pub rock blues scene: grimmer, edgier and more urban. This sort of range & variety is presumably indicative of the album as a whole & not only will be tracks as yet unheard be revelatory, so will the running order, given their penchant for both the styles just mentioned, plus more country blues, funkier blues and the sort of material which reflects what certain guest musicians, whose contributions are as yet unshared, bring to the feast.

All four preview tracks are currently available as downloads via the DRB Bandcamp page (https://dirtroadband.bandcamp.com/) so you can get a heads up on the pleasures still to come.

Damn right they've got the blues: in all its varieties.

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