You have to love the blues. A genre predicated on the authenticity of those who play it, the blues is as varied and as deep as the emotions that feed it. It can be dark, sombre, hopeful or despairing; hell it can even have a sense of humour given half a chance, and most blues musicians, far from entertaining some sort of inane brand loyalty, will tread across the wide pastures of the blues as their whim takes them. Dirty Deep, a one man band from France, roams though the blue grass territory traditionally found south of the US border, with gnarled electric guitar, stomp box and harmonica in full evidence and… not a lot else. As mercilessly stripped back as Blood Red Shoes, the White Stripes or The Kills, but mining a blusier vein than the aforementioned acts, Dirty Deep is more reminiscent of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on their career defining album ‘Howl’, only with a grittier (or should that be dirtier?) production, as if BRMC’s mandate had been pinned up on the wall of a dirty basement and used as a blueprint for this disc. In short, it’s a cool, gritty release that should ideally be heard in company, with a stack of beers and smokes close to hand – it’s just that sort of record.
‘Shotgun wedding’ kicks off with the aptly titled ‘bottleneck’, a gloriously distorted redneck stomp that sounds like it was recorded in an Alabama swamp with Beck at the mixing desk. It’s scuzzy, like an old, worn boot that urgently needs a lick of polish and dirty as hell, and yet that merely adds to the charm. ‘Low down’ has an urgent groove to it, the slide guitar and primal beat neatly combining under the gritty vocals whilst the high octane stomp of ‘junky green truck’ packs a mean punch, all dirt box guitars and crackly broken amplifier buzz making you reach for the bourbon. Finally slowing the pace, ‘Middle of nowhere’ is a dusty, bone dry slab of desolate blues, all slide guitar and harmonica evoking images of a town bleached white by the sun and picked clean by the racing sand carried on the hot desert wind. Picking up the groove again, ‘midnight bus’ further cements the Beck connection as it pits slacker rap against slide guitar and a smart beat, and then ‘Let it ride’ pillages John Lee Hooker and sends his spirit out, hopped up on Amphetamine, to scare the youngsters with mean slide work and gritty vocals.
Having displayed a firm grasp of the various forms of the blues, Dirty Deep kicks into the Robert Johnson-esque ‘til the day I die’ with the sound of a bottle-top popping, and sure enough it’s pyre vintage blues that sounds like it was recorded on a sun-dappled porch using only an old reel-to-reel recorder. Better still is a reworking of that old staple, ‘John the revelator’, which has also been referenced by Depeche Mode and which, funnily enough, steals the guitar lick to ‘Personal Jesus’ in the process. ‘Release me’, in contrast, sounds like the sort of authentic blues ballad that the Kings of Leon have somehow crafted an inexplicably huge career from reproducing on an industrial scale, but here it sounds natural and it provides a brief moment of respite from the rampant blues riffs before ‘what the hell’ slowly builds up a head of steam in time for ‘she’s a devil inside’ to trip nimbly into view on the back of a slinky riff and gritty, memorable vocal hook. Final track, ‘when the sun comes up’ kicks into a led zeppelin vibe with its huge central riff and pummelling drums drawing the album to a satisfyingly adrenalin-soaked close.
Overall Dirty Deep demonstrates a passion for the blues in all its glorious forms over the course of ‘Shotgun wedding’. Bright and vibrant on the early tracks, but not afraid to get dark and dusty on pieces like ‘middle of nowhere’, the album draws from the best with references to John Lee Hooker, Lead Belly and Robert Johnson all rising from out of the liquor-soaked haze to make their presence felt and ultimately, if you dig the blues, you’ll dig this down and dirty collection of foot-stomping, soul-baring tunes.