Brought up on a diet of Rory Gallagher and Roy Buchanan, I was introduced to The Blues at an early age. Through time, this interest led me to the Southern Rock sound of bands such as Lynryd Skynyrd, The Outlaws, Marshall Tucker Band etc., and more recently the blues-drenched ‘desert rock’ the likes of Sleepy Sun.
From the sound of it, THE JIM DOLAN PROJECT have made a similar journey.
‘Times Have Changed’ is not specifically like any of those bands mentioned, but if you take the general ‘feel’ and add an extra dash of Country mixed with Americana, then you’re not far away. And it’s all delivered with an authenticity that belies their Watford, England roots!
Opening track ‘Burning At Both Ends’ sets the tone for the album. With a gently chugging guitar riff, there’s a sort of sinister undertone in the grumbling bass-line as the warm vocals convey heat from the burning hell as the observation is made that ‘the devil’s your only friend.’
‘Line In The Sand’ is my favourite track on the album. It starts out slowly, in the manner of Bon Jovi’s ‘Wanted Dead or Alive,’ but builds into a fantastically atmospheric anthem that conveys the image of Californian deserts littered with cactus plants and dried-out cattle skulls. (Ok – maybe that’s just me, then!) But the integration of a string section gives the song a real depth and the guitar solo has a haunted feel about it. The only possible ‘negative’ about this song is that although it runs to just shy of five minutes, it could quite easily have been built into something momentous by adding a couple of additional minutes into the instrumental break. Great stuff!
‘Dirty Blues’ does exactly as it says on the tin – it’s a gritty, rumbling blues riff that runs throughout, interspersed with little guitar licks and a rockin’ blues vocal.
I love ‘train’ songs. Not that I’m a train-spotter geek type or anything, but just the way the imagery is portrayed in songs like Rory Gallagher’s ‘Race The Breeze,’ or Dave Arcari’s ‘Blue Train.’ There are many other examples, but probably none any more descriptive than ‘Dead Man’s Handle,’ in which the pace increases as life of the tale-teller becomes more and more out of control. This is the first song on the album that features the female harmonies that will be given more prominence in later tracks.
The first of those is ‘If I Don’t See You Tonight.’ Now, I’m not big on downbeat songs and so initially I had an automatic resistance to this song, but on actively listening to the lyrics of regret and emptiness I have to say it definitely grew on me. It’s a sad story, and delivered in a way that made me think of The Beautiful South gone Country, but one that certainly merits taking time over. (Again, the string section breakdown adds tremendously to the feel of the song.)
‘Mistake’ is another slow song – this could be pushing it! Yeah – it is. I’m sure it’s a quality song in its own little way, but for someone with the attention span of a rampant gnat, two downbeat songs, one after another, is a bit much. It is broken up with some nice lap-steel guitar, but it’s still one I’d probably skip over if I didn’t have to write about it.
‘Real Life’ brings me back into the room. Can Country music also be ‘funky?’ Sounds like it. This will have you shufflin’ in your shoes. ‘Photograph’ is featured in the video below, so no need to comment – other than to say, ‘give it time.’ Certainly not one of my favourites, it is saved by the deep-sounding cello backing.
‘Kingdom Of Dust,’ returns the album to what I personally feel THE JIM DOLAN PROJECT do best – bluesy desert rock. Atmospheric slide guitar, mid-paced tempo and strong vocals with a catchy rhythm and memorable hook; yep, that’ll do nicely.
The album closer is also the title track and features the soulful (Joplin-esque) vocal style of Lynne Jackman. The intensity rises and falls in good, slow stomping fashion and certainly rivals ‘Line In The Sand’ as my favourite.
I believe this is the first album from THE JIM DOLAN PROJECT who formed only a year or so back. This should certainly gain them a good bit of attention, and I for one look forward to what may follow.
(Released through Which Wolf Wins and available now – November 2012)
(8.5 / 10)