In these posts, I’ve talked a bit about music being greater than the sum of its parts. The musical artist combines poetic words with well-played instruments, perfect rhythms and soaring vocals in complementary fashion to form a song. And the song gets right to the heart of the listener more profoundly than any of its separate parts could. So a song with perfectly-worded and deep philosophical, social, or emotional lyrics, typically gets higher regard in my perspective.
But sometimes, music is just fun.
And such is the case with The Dustbowl Revival, the fourth album from the band of the same name. The music is full-throttle Bluegrass with more than a little Dixieland thrown in for good measure. Or maybe it’s the other way around – it’s hard to say. Oh, and some Jazzy Blues as well. The band employs typical Bluegrass instruments – fiddle, mandolin, bass fiddle, guitar – and adds a couple of brass instruments which really give them their unique sound.
Although the themes never rise above the typical in-and-out-of-love songs, the eight members of the band provide plenty of instrumental and vocal power to compensate. Fun seems to be the goal of The Dustbowl Revival and they pretty much nail it.
For the Baby Boomers out there, think of The Band with a powerful female lead singer. The comparison popped into my head more than a few times while listening to The Dustbowl Revival.
Fast-paced and loud is the bread-and-butter for this album, with opener “Call My Name” and first single “Busted” serving as fine examples. The quiet ballad is a near no-show, with the heavy-handedly sad “Got Over” and “Debtor’s Prison” being the only possible exceptions.
Yet the band seems to make a point to not fall into a rut in terms of style with each of the eleven tracks finding its own place on the Jazz/Rock/Bluegrass spectrum. They even enlist the help of Blues great Mo’ Keb’ and rock a little Blues on “Honey I Love You.”
The downside of The Dustbowl Revival – both the album and the band – is twofold. First, much like Santana, that they throw so much at you in one song that it’s hard to listen – really listen – to several in a row. It’s just wears you out. I suppose it’s a difficulty for an eight-member band to give us a couple of slow, peaceful ballads.
Which brings us to the second point. While The Dustbowl Revival excels when they go full steam, their attempts at slower-tempo’d song don’t quite hit the mark. As a result, when the tempo lags, so does the album.
Still, there’s enough good stuff here for a very satisfying experience. So, if you’re in the mood for some feel-good, head-bobbing music without having to exert much brain power, The Dustbowl Revival is the ticket. If there is indeed a relationship between music and endorphins, this will do the trick.
Here’s the album on Spotify
Fun videos, actually. These two videos feature songs from previous albums, but are the best examples of the fun nature of this band I could find.
Here’s 90-year-old Dick Van Dyke dancing to the band’s music.
Here’s a song that…well, just watch and listen.