Chris Warren and the Dirty Holiday Band
f city life is in any way feeling bleak to you, another winter certainly won’t help matters... but that’s where Chris Warren and the Dirty Holiday Band’s new album American Vulture comes in. By delivering Warren’s poignant urban observations through the warm medium of country music, those December/January troubles will melt to soothing temperature. This city/country counterbalance of atmosphere, like sidewalks through the grass, at once lends perspective to cement surroundings, while offering the welcome benefit of escape. In short, picture American Vulture as the equivalent of dragging a rocking chair off a Kentucky porch, and then setting ‘er down real easy on your apartment stoop. Then crack a beer. (But that’s totally up to you).
With a traditional rock arrangement of drums/bass/guitar, at times things gently roll here; at other times, more towards rollicking. The first song, “Underdog,” sets the easy-going tone. With over-lapping harmonies and soft pinches of xylophone, this is an enchanting, music-box of a melody. It’s a bit folk standard, (Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land), and it’s a bit country lullaby (“You Are My Only Sunshine”). An ode to a down-on-his-luck friend, Warren’s voice evokes a rare and unconditional earnestness: “Underdog / You’re a small wonder / It’s a mystery to me / Why you don’t / Ever get your way / Ever get your way / Maybe…” Though his voice is uplifting, you can hear the tender disbelief that appears when less-than-swell things happen to the ones we love. But like good friends, Warren offers mending hope, “Maybe tomorrow’s the day / Your luck’ll turn around.” And sure enough, you can’t help but believe it to be true.
But such is the theme on American Vulture. Among the disorder and even mundane, there is a subsequent, peaceful resolve. For example, for all the anxiousness in the “You Can’t Do It From Home” found in time-passing-me-by lyrics like, “My little brother is bigger than me / And my little sister is head of the family,” there are beautiful and calm reassurances to follow, such as, “We weren’t built to last, but we were built to love”—the kind of lyrics that offer a good tie to our loose ends. Other songs follow this reassuring-suit, such as “Wear and Tear,” most notable for the old R&B/Smokey Robinson-like pulse of the opening verse. From there, things release into another trouble-aiding chorus, and offer up welcome, serene reflection: “I’m not worried about my death / I figure after all of this / I could use some rest.”
For Dirty Holiday, it’s clearly about making peace with your troubles, though they never pretend such a thing is easy to do. They just offer up the hope. The album closes with “Make It Right Somehow,” which, sure enough, deals with the quandary that is right-making. We all know that finding the “somehow” is the hardest part, but just to hear someone sing in Southern lilt, “We’ll try to make it right somehow,” it’s as if you’re halfway to right already. And when you add those Ray Charles pianos and more living-room harmonies, well, it’s as if you were already there, isn’t it?
Reviewed by: Sue Bell
Reviewed on: 2006-01-06