Hunter & the Dirty Jacks: Chase the Moonlight Review

The Los Angeles-based Hunter & the Dirty Jacks first came to Blues Rock Review’s attention in mid-2013, not long after the band of five formed. Featuring Hunter Ackerman (vocals, harp), Aaron Barnes (bass, backing vocals), Carmelo Bonaventura (guitar, backing vocals), Brian Lara (drums, tambourine, backing vocals) and Jon Siembieda (guitar, backing vocals), the Dirty Jacks quickly gained a reputation as a band with talent, heart and potential—they scored an early weekly residency at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica (the same club that previously hosted Vintage Trouble’s residency) and soon after partnered with Feed Your Soul, an organization that gathers food donations for the homeless. When Blues Rock Review spoke with the band in July of 2013, they spelled out a few key goals for the years ahead: They wanted to record and release a debut album (the powerful Single Barrel was released in early 2014 and was followed by Mixed Company & the Midnight Hokum in 2015) and expand their performance schedule to bring their music to more clubs and even more listeners. Five years later, the band is returning with Chase the Moonlight, a seven-track album that shows the band paying tribute to the California landscape that remains the jumping-off point for their music creation and performance.

Since the Dirty Jacks found such early success as a live band, it makes sense that the band members rely on that rougher sound and feel for an album so heavily influenced by the land they call home. Chase the Moonlight is bumpier than Single Barrel, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While Single Barrel sounded like it was very carefully produced, with leading single “Rock and Roll Soul” in particular featuring pronounced drumbeats and crystal-clear vocals from Ackerman, Chase the Moonlight album opener “Tumbleweed” is a better fit for the band’s live performances, a reminder that the stage is where this particular band excels. With the Dirty Jacks already committed to a West Coast U.S. tour this summer—and a slot at the still-new KAABOO Southern California festival in September—these seven songs are a good indication of valuable performances to come, even if they don’t all hit their marks on the recorded album.

Though “Tumbleweed” gives the album a slow start and “Crucify” doesn’t develop much past its initial repetitive loop, “Liquor Store Fedora” shows the band taking chances, lying a jaunty, stomping beat beneath lyrics that describe searching for answers at the bottoms of whiskey bottles. Barnes’ thrumming bass gives this song—and the album at large—one of its greatest moments: While the bass is present throughout, a brief solo that starts just before the 2:30 mark is a reminder both of the band’s ambitions and the skills they’ve continued honing since forming five years ago. By the fourth song, “Forty More Days and Forty More Nights,” Chase the Moonlight settles into a groove far more comfortable than that of the first few songs, returning to the rollicking style familiar to Dirty Jacks fans and well suited to the band’s upcoming tour dates.

Chasing Moonlight isn’t as strong a collection as Single Barrel, but it serves as a reminder that not every musical production can be an A+—and for bands like the Dirty Jacks, they don’t need a home run every time to remain relevant in the blues rock scene.

The Review: 7/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Liquor Store Fedora
– Forty More Days and Forty More Nights

The Big Hit

– Forty More Days and Forty More Nights

Review by Meghan Roos

Buy the album: Amazon | Amazon UK

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