Dirty 30s' Bootheel pride shines through on two discs

Friday, January 13, 2006
The Dirty 30s' getting down at Lemmons in St. Louis. From left, Jeb, Riley, Stu and Brian (submitted photo)

Bands often write songs about where they're from. That's why the Beach Boys wrote about California and Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi wrote about New Jersey; it's what they're familiar with. In the same way, the dirty rock of The Dirty 30s often looks at life in and around Southeast Missouri.

Their two new CDs offer many examples of this, as well as many varying styles, including rock, blues, country and folk. One CD contains songs recorded in New York City with Eric "Roscoe" Ambel and the other was recorded in Scott City with Brandon Drury.

The production by Ambel on the New York City is reflective of his supposed minimalist nature; what has to be there is and that's it. But what is there is pretty good. The acoustic and electric guitars mix well together, and the drums are steady and the bass is constantly moving and inventive. Singer Jay Riley's vocals are delivered in a kind of slightly-muttered sand-papery nonchalance that fits the laid back nature of The Dirty 30s music perfectly.

The New York disc kicks off with "Rode Hard." "Rode Hard" tells the story of a truck driver who wants to "waste some time" with a girl at a gas station. All he has is $20, but promises she will be "rode hard, and put up wet" nonetheless. "Rode Hard" is The Dirty 30s' most addicting track; there's a catchy riff, a nice melody and even a bridge, but no solo, adding to the song's direct nature.

One of the highlights for the band is "The Crackle"; it rocks hard, like an American version of Elton John's pub-riot "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting," or perhaps a Cape Girardeau version. Running off classic lines like "feeling surly and you're looking to fight / some fists are flyin' on a Saturday night/ a fifth of Jim and a Milwaukee beast / you get in your car and you're headin' East," "The Crackle" is a perfect summation for the weekends of many in Cape, from alcohol to brawls to rowdy visitors from Thebes (it happens, I guess). It leaves you wondering what they think about the new strip club nearby.

"Swampeast MO" is another Missouri-associated track, quite obviously. It's like a backwoods punk song, with verses that tell of "getting a house and a big old dog" and "constant fear and breakin' law" in between cymbal crashes-a-many and a guitar lick almost stronger than the 'shine, but not quite.

The songs recorded with Brandon Drury don't sound a whole lot different; the sound isn't as spare -- the stereo field seems to be taken advantage of more -- and the drums are a bit softer. The important thing is that the nine songs are just as strong as the 11 recorded in New York.

"The Start" is wonderfully desperate with its crashing chords and its "call me if you're lonely tonight" chorus. "When This Bottle is Gone" surpasses the desperation of "The Start" and would sound right at home pumping through a jukebox in any lonely bar. Bassist Jeb Venable sings this one; his voice sounds a bit lower than Riley's and is a bit more melancholy but has the same great gritty quality.

Another great track from the Drury recordings is the rocker "Bootheel Baby." Like many of their other songs, this song is built around a very addictive guitar riff that's pounded into your brain mercilessly. The chorus talks about a girl who "never comes to a show"; she doesn't know what she's missing. If you have the chance to listen to The Dirty 30s, listen to them. And if you can see them, by all means go see them.

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