The wait is almost over for all of those who have been pining for new music from Dirty Honey. Since the world went to hell and along with it, the sudden halt to live shows, there has been a void of sorts. In the post lockdown environment, there has been a lot of music released by bored musicians with nothing to do but produce a side project or two, with no intent to tour around it. For the enterprises that are on an upward trajectory and in demand for the festival circuit and general touring, the uncertainty of in-person performing to support a new recording is speculative. For Corey Coverstone, Marc LaBelle, John Notto and Justin Smolian, it seems as though there was just no more keeping this cow in the barn any longer. Mark the date, April 23, 2021, that’s when you can lay your hands on this brand new batch of tunes.
What better way for an L.A. band to open their debut, full-length record than with a tune called California Dreamin’? Unless you’ve been completely out of touch for the last several weeks, you’ve probably heard this one with its riding groove from Coverstone and the raunchy inside out riff from Notto. It’s no wonder why they selected this track to be the first tease for the record. It is a good lead in for an octad of well-crafted and tastefully performed rock songs. This collection is full of what you would expect as a follow up to their 2019 EP. The Wire and Tied Up will tickle your listening bone with tales of romantic woes. The latter of those two introduces background singers and culminates with LaBelle sparring with them, in an a cappella exhibition of his silk covered rasp vocalization.
The entire batch is a study in how to make rock songs. There is no showing off from any of the band members. Every song here is based on a tight and savory guitar riff. The drumming is alive and serves the songs, with no unnecessary fills. Smolian gets right in the pocket with Coverstone and Notto, providing the occasional harmonic accents. They have struck a balance right in between overplaying and underplaying. Nowhere is this more evidenced than in Gypsy, which begins with a triple-time march beat, and is joined by a gallivanting riff. Smolian gets about a half beat ahead of Coverstone in the verses, seemingly daring him to keep up. The chiming guitar behind the chorus offsets the melancholy vocals. This is a flavorful rock song with staying power and may end up being one of the band’s signature tunes for years to come.
On the homestretch you have No Warning, yet another number, ostensibly about relational take it or leave it. The key change in the middle of the second verse is an interesting attention grabber. The Morning opens the door to the bedroom and lends a glimpse into a liaison for which neither party knows the outcome, but it will be steamy. The swan song of this collection is an apt summit in a group of peaks. Another Last Time evokes all the splendor of the very best of southern rock. From the introductory guitar, to the addition of electric piano and the inclusion of background singers, this one is a gem. The lyrics are thoughtful, bittersweet and delivered exquisitely. It has a sublime musical feel with a bridge that draws you in, revs you up and deposits you on the other side to ultimately be laid down and relish the few remaining licks and to drift off into completion.
The only criticism that can be levied against this album is that it is too short. Checking in at just under 30 minutes for eight tracks, it could have contained two more tracks and would have been a bit more satisfying. But that is the only thing that can be pointed out, and isn’t really a criticism as much as it is an observation. Considering their relatively short residence in the public sphere, Dirty Honey are very savvy and perhaps are paying tribute to the old showbiz motto… always leave them wanting more. To ease your worried mind, according to LaBelle, “We’re working hard on another eight for you right now.”
One point of emphasis to convey is that great care was paid to the writing of this review, as to not compare Dirty Honey with other bands. It is human nature, when you hear something new to decide which box it goes in. We as people tend to put things in a box containing items with which we are familiar and logically think belong together. That is all completely understandable, but the time for compartmentalization should only serve to help the listener file that away in their brain. Eventually, those files need to be moved to their own folder. So to sum it up, stop with the comparisons. This record sounds like Dirty Honey, and no further philosophical conclusion need be drawn. If this release is any indication, in the future, we may all be expounding on how much a new band sounds like Dirty Honey.