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The Dirty Strangers – Hunter’s Moon (DS Records, 2023)
*By Marcelo Sonaglioni
How hard is it to review an album? Believe me, I’ve reviewed many of them through the years and it’s always hard work, mostly when you end up not liking the album after many listenings. But guess what, it’s even harder to review them when you love them, and that’s eventually what’s currently happening when playing The Dirty Strangers‘ fantastic (and fun-tas-tic) Hunter’s Moon, which, errr, I just LOVE. See how hard it is?
And it didn’t take many listenings to fall in love with it. Just a first spin and, pheeew, you’re in. Right, like Cupid and the arrows. It just takes eleven of them to cross your heart. Yes, like a potent drug (or so users say…), or else the purest shot of rock’n’roll you have’´t heard in a while. Now this is real badass rock’n’roll, the way it was meant to be and the way it still is thanks to bands like the Dirtys. That said, as we know, boss Alan Clayton and the rest of the boys have been around for a while, many different line-ups in between (if you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the band, otherwise you can always have a look at my Alan interview from a few years back here) But the current one (Dirty Al on guitar and vocals, as usual; Cliff Wright on bass and backing vox, John Rollason on guitar and also backing vocals, and drummer Lawrence Fox) is just a tight unit with all four band members complementing each other so well, you know. It just doesn’t take more to rock the house, but guests Pip Mailing on drums, the Quireboys’ Guy Griffin on guitar and, most important of it all, “long-time keyboard maestro” (as described in the album’s press release) Scott ‘Scotty’ Mulvey, who sadly passed away 2 years ago, doing what he was best at. And how good he was! That said, it only takes the first three seconds of the opening song of the album (right, that’s the album title track, with all songs starting life during lockdown, the band’s sixth studio album) to realize you’re on a rock’n’roll train bound for R’n’R heaven. No ticket needed. What could go wrong? So by the time you’re already on La La La I Couldn’t Care Less (with special guest Alan’s then-thirteen-year-old niece Holly on drums) you realize you just got the wrong message: you’re caring too much actually, but good you do! Clayton credits writing in lockdown seclusion on the 1964 Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar that Keith Richards gave to him (yes, Exile and beyond) more than 20 years ago for both this and the depth added to his vividly eloquent lyrics. Now good ‘ole Jerry Lee would be jealous of such a rockin’ gem like My Girl’s a Getaway Driver, nothing but a hundred seconds of pure hellish rock’n’roll (or did I say RnR again?) which could have perfectly fit in his Live at the Star Club album from ’64 (still the most dangerous album ever recorded, and forever will remain) had the Dirtys backed him up. Make sure about that.
Next one is country time, with Cell Block No. 5 being probably the best C&W tune by an English band ever since the Stones’ Far Way Eyes, followed by a double shot of RnR (sorry again) with T’TroubleMaker and Slap Bang. Next is what it happens to be to be my favourite song of the album, State of Affair, as catchy and sleazy and swagger and all that as you haven’t heard in years. Like they did in their previous album Crime and A Woman (where they revisited South of the River, originally released in 2009’s West 12 to Wittering (Another West Side Story), my favourite Dirtys album ever, they’re now revisiting one from West 12… with Gold Cortina, which now gets even more rockabilly- flavoured than the original take (Lord have mercy on Memphis!, these guys can set the house on fire, and forget about calling the firemen…) Two more (Stay For A Little While, same spirit as State of Affair, and hey what about those great Chuck Berry-Keith Richards on fire licks again?), wrapping it up with Anything You Say (acoustic and slide), with Alan Clayton getting just sweet and romantic. For a band which is proud to define themselves as “carrying a torch for rootsy Rock’N’Roll as invented by Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent & Chuck Berry” nothing could be ever better than being true to their motto. I could go on for years praising the album, but love is not helping. Guess I already said how hard it is to review an album you love, now didn’t I? Or else it’ll all come clear under a Hunter’s Moon…