- Coming Up For Air
Gus and Hank Productions
There’s no way Dirtfoot’s fourth album – Coming Up For Air – could have been recorded in the daylight. Oh, don’t get me wrong: the Shreveport, LA-based band will make you grin and dance and hoot and holler throughout the album’s 13 tracks – but there’s always a wee bit of darkness handy. Or weirdness. Or something. But it’s cool.
It’s just that you’re way-deep in the middle of the erotic tango of “Giving Up On Love” before you realize you’re doing the crazy low-dip with a skeleton. And the door’s locked.
Or consider “Hypocrisy”, which lures you in with the promise of some fuzzed-out-guitar-and-booming-bass-driven road music before shape-shifting into a Saturday night barn dance in Hell, complete with laughing demons and a madly-blowing saxophone (Scott Gerardy – a dangerous man with a reed) and those damn cheese-filled rats in the cellar. And the door’s locked again.
That locked door thing may not be a problem for you, however, as you’re gonna wanna see what’s next. The six wild-ass multi-instrumentalists of Dirtfoot keep it changed up and constantly swirling: here comes “Sweet Love”, all greasy leather and switchblade cool and slam-bang drums and craaaaaaaazeeeeeee horns (the Rebirth Brass Band!) and sinister banjo (if anyone can make a banjo sound sinister, Dirtfoot’s J Bratlie can) and just about the time you figger you’re going to make it through the night unscathed, whoooooooooaaaaaaaaaaah – everything takes a taffy-limbed lurch sideways and you’re trying to stay upright as “I’m Going Home” stumbles along, all drawled-out vox (frontman Matt Hazelton), slurred horn lines, and Daniel Breithaupt playing what could be either a xylophone or vibes or a rib cage. But it’s okay; it’s okay – you can do this … but there’s no way that you’re prepared for the wild midnight gallop of “No Good Man” – Bratlie’s banjo whanging foreheads with Hazelton’s oil can guitar – and who knew a camel could run like that?
So you’re getting the picture by now, right? Dirtfoot’s Louisiana heritage is always handy in their music, but they haul cool rhythms and moods out of thin air and create big, big pictures that will stick with you long after the music fades. (Me, I’m still trying not to think about the “roaches on the refrigerator like magnets” of “Amelia Earhardt”.
Dirtfoot’s bassman Nathan Woods and drummer Derek Russell are the underpinnings of all the madness – haybale punk or Cossack hippie or greaser waltz: you name it, they can thumpwump it out for you. And look at the list of buds who make cameos throughout Coming Up For Air : that’s Railroad Earth’s Timmy Carbone applying some sweet fiddle to “This Old Pride” (think Tom Waits getting mellow as he warms his hands over a burning trash can); Zoe Bratlie joins in the slowly escalating chorus of “Break My Bones”, eventually spiraling off into the night with the rest of ‘em; Papa Mali adds some guitar raunch to the lap-grind of “John Zooke”; and Brady Blade – he who produced this delightful madness – even got into the act himself with some cool congas on the aforementioned “Giving Up On Love”.
There’s a lot going on here, but never too much. If Coming Up For Air was a Broadway musical, the crew would be crazy-busy shifting the scenery – but the cool thing about Dirtfoot is, they maintain a definite presence through all sorts of settings.
The bottom line: this is the sound of some hellishly-talented players with quirky imaginations having some fun. In the dark.
If these guys had been at Woodstock, Wavy Gravy would’ve told the crowd, “Don’t eat the brown acid – but have all the green okra you want.”
Brian Robbins warms his hands over a burning trash can in the back alley of www.brian-robbins.com