Whereas most outfits would love to emerge from the studio with a final mix as precise and vibrant as Rough and Tumble, Dirty Streets manage to accomplish the feat live from the stage. It might take listeners a few spins to discern that this isn’t a studio set.
The band jams cleanly with a loose organic feel that their chosen sounds accentuate. All of the instruments are played hard, and voiced with full, rounded tones that please the ear, while the moods and styles blur the lines between rock, soul, blues and funk. In ten short songs (only two make it over the four-minute mark), the trio of Justin Toland, Thomas Storz, and Andrew Denham create a lot of noise, cover a decent amount of songwriting, and serve the audience a very full, albeit brief, sonic meal.
Seven of the songs come from Dirty Streets’s two latest albums, White Horse and Distractions, but the approach here is disparate enough from either of those efforts that it doesn’t feel like a simple retread. “Good Pills” bursts open with Toland’s blaring guitar and vocalizations. The unison harmony on the main riff announces that many of the songs will be centered around a tight but punchy musical phrase, but the team has much more to offer.
The band covers two Joe South tunes: the anthemic “Walk a Mile In My Shoes” and the lesser known, “Tell The Truth.” They handle the former well, and put enough of their moxie in it to trick an unsuspecting listener into thinking that it’s a Streets original, but the real skill lies in the complete reimagination of the latter. Groovier, slinkier, and just plain cooler than the original, “Tell The Truth” is a lesson in how to reinvigorate an old classic. Toland and crew also know when to leave well enough alone on “Itta Benna,” keeping all the grit of the original from their debut album. “I never knew when I made the deal, that dealing was a sin.” In a way, it’s their version of “Cross Road Blues.”
Shifting slightly from hard blues rock into a more soulful vein, back-to-back tracks “Think Twice” and “Take A Walk” refocus the energy just enough to keep things interesting. Stolz begins “Think Twice” with a bassline that could have easily landed him a job in Motown in a different era. Funky, fuzzed-out wah guitar licks complement the rhythm and loom even larger on “Take A Walk,” which threatens to veer into jazz-rock near its end.
Slower acoustic numbers close out the album and show a completely different side of Dirty Streets. Introspection and quiet contemplation dominate the mood on “On The Way”—a candidate for best song of the set. Twangy slide, a finger picked melody, and only a shaker for percussion accompany one of the best sung lines on Rough and Tumble: “Before you paint a picture of a mirror, let me see. It may be familiar, or no nearer than the sea.”
Great soulful vocals, a stellar rhythm duo, and a plethora of guitar tones only scratch the surface of why this album succeeds. In the end, the fact that the band recorded it live may become incidental. To call Rough and Tumble an album that is both tight and loose may be oxymoronic on its face, but it works here. If Dirty Streets were contemplating a follow-up, they could do a lot worse than to pick ten different songs, one different night, and bring the same energy and passion as they did for this gem.
The Review: 9/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Good Pills
– Itta Benna
– Think Twice
– Take A Walk
– On The Way
The Big Hit
– Itta Benna