Label: Partisan Records Release Date: 06/07/10 Link: Official Site Buy: Amazon A few months ago, I reviewed the album Mountains on our Backs by CarCrashLander, and gave it a very good review, because it was a very good album. It lacked though, at times, because the guitar sound wasn't rich enough to set the mood of the songs, or the voice didn't have enough power to sustain the intended atmosphere. The Black Dirt Sessions by Deer Tick attempts a similar dark atmosphere, and gets it spot on. The album starts off in a rather disappointing fashion, not representative of the rest of the album at all. 'Choir of Angels' is slightly gospel, slightly hackneyed, and though it is well-constructed with gentle guitar interplay and some alluring guitar licks, it's a bit average. 'Twenty Miles', track two, begins to correct the damage done with some nice American folk-lyrics about dimes and trekking and love. It's a sweet track, but nothing on what follows. At the next track, things really start to look up. 'Goodbye, Dear Friend' may be a standard title, and the song typical of a piano lament, but it is genuine and emotional. 'Piece by Piece and Frame by Frame' is the best track yet, an edgy acoustic number with a meaningful vibe. It sounds like it might have been recorded in a lumberjack's hut, only instruments and raw feeling to work with. 'Mange' has riffs in that I swear are lifted straight from 'Sweet Home Alabama', but twinkling percussion and flattened sevenths ensure its originality and summery appeal. Tracks eight to eleven seal the deal on the quality of The Black Dirt Sessions. 'Hand in my Hand' is laid-back with a touch of falsetto, a lovely listen. 'I Will Not Be Myself' is breath-taking, literally, probably my favourite track, taking you on a tense trip through the writer's morose but captivating spilling of consciousness. It perfect its mood in every note of every line... 'Blood Moon' is similar in mood, but more bluesy, and with a generous smothering of echo. Final song 'Christ Jesus' is a perfect ending to the album, ambiguous and enthralling. Lyrics which would seem doubtable in the mouths of skinny indie kids from Brixton seem significant when sung in John McCauley III's rasping tones, over rich chords and the occasional tremolo of an organ. "To you I was invited, so in your arms I'll die/ every other man got away, but I won't even try," will send a shiver down your spine in 'Blood Moon', and this album is packed with those lyrical icy breezes. Mostly, though, the lyrics are made by the voice: gritty and original, McCauley pins down every syllable with inimitable style. The Black Dirt Sessions takes itself very seriously, it must be said, but it has reason to do so; its simplicity and honesty are deeply moving, and the skill of the players and gorgeous vocals help to create a nigh on perfect atmosphere. I've not heard moody blues-rock done this well for a long time. It's derivative, yes, but it's also great stuff, and any album of late-night thinking music which, you later realise, sounds just as good in the daytime gets my vote. Photobucket