Precisely played and entertaining jazz/roots Dutch debut.
There was a little debate at AUK central about exactly where this offering sat genre-wise until musical uber galactico (see that clever meld of the kings of European football there?) Mark Whitfield declared he heard traces of roots therein and the debate was settled. When listening you might think you have strayed into Altman’s, ‘Kansas City’, Coppola’s, ‘Cotton Club’, or even Parker’s, ’Bugsy Malone’, and none of those are bad places to be. The band self-define with the music of Pokey LaFarge, Meschiya Lake and CW Stoneking. Their sound is described as borne out of a love for pre-war blues, swing and gypsy, ’new songs with a vintage feel’, part as they would have it of the, ‘pre-war revival’.
There are no stetsons in sight and all beards are respectfully trimmed and the band look rather like a more benign bunch of Peaky Blinders. Them Dirty Dimes are in fact Dutch, from Groningen, consisting of Gijs de Groot vocals and guitar; Johan Stolk guitar, banjo and backing vocals; Joas Zuur trumpet, bugle and backing vocals and Wessel de Vries on drums. Without wishing to foment a swift break up, Anne de Vries is pictured as part of what is referred to as a 5 piece but with no instrumental or vocal credits?
There are a host of supporting session musicians supplying various horns, as well as several permutations of bass playing. Not surprisingly, collectively they create a pretty full and meaty sound.
‘From banjo to baritone saxophone, and from violin to sousaphone; with all the session musicians the album brings you back to America’s dark and golden ages’.
This is a 13 track (though one is a brief instrumental interlude) début CD with songs all penned by Johan Stolk. It starts with the title track, ‘In Gold We Trust’, which also name-checks the Dirty Dimes moniker. These are well-written songs with lyrics with a flow and sense that work well. They are not what one would call profound or emotionally deep (there seem to be a good number of feckless rootless males involved) but they are entertaining. ‘In Gold We Trust’ despairs the fact that this, ‘dirty nation‘, is built on dirty dimes. Which dirty nation I am not sure but I assume the USA, with the evident feeling of the roaring ‘20s.
Musically the template is set and we move to the up-tempo, ‘Jake-Walk Shuffle’ , in praise of alcohol. The pace is maintained with, ‘Keep Diggin’, before, ’Bed and Bottle Blues’, offers a slower whispered vocal of lost love.
Things really change with, ‘Morning Hour’, which seems to herald an episode of, ‘Happy Days‘, and the entrance of The Fonz with initial doo-wop harmonies leading to another, now you see me now you don’t, sexual encounter. Heyyyy…
Stand out track is, ‘The Day I Met Capone’, which relays the true story of how Fats Waller met Al Capone in order to entertain the gangster at his birthday party. It wasn’t a voluntary arrangement on Waller’s part – he was kidnapped at gunpoint and, apparently, his pre-gig rider was given scant attention. I guess he was just glad to survive. This track could easily be an early Tom Waits tall tale, it’s that good.
‘Bald and Alone’ and ‘From Blue to Black’, offer more thoughts on loss and love before ‘Fat Chance’ illustrates the gypsy-jazz side of the band and a lyric that revolves around the inability to dance – and much of this disc is very danceable.
‘Strange Sounds’, features exactly that, a lame sonore (French for musical saw apparently) used to create a suitably mysterious backdrop to a track that seems to offer some ecological advice. This track and, to some extent the finale, ‘Passing By’, are a little out of sync with the rest of what is on offer by way of their more serious approach and subject matter.
‘Baby in Babylon’, makes a play on how Babylon can be split into alternative meanings and would fit nicely into the catalogue of Commander Cody. For some reason a number of tunes, without being plagiaristic, had me thinking of how other artists might perform them. As mentioned, proceedings are rounded off with, ‘Passing By,’ – and aren’t we just!
Whilst I am still a little unsure as to its americana credentials – just how wide do we spread the net? – this is confidently played enjoyable music. The ensemble playing is augmented by plenty of tasteful soloing, though without any gratuitous band-standing. The lyrics are generally dry and droll to good effect even if some of the stories – drink and unfaithful men with wanderlust – are hardly new. If you do like LaFarge, Lake, Stoneking or possibly something like Dr John’s, ‘Duke Elegant’, then there is something here for you.