Rhode Island’s Deer Tick has always been a personal favorite. Their rootsy revival of southern rock, paired with John McCauley’s irreplaceable vocals has been an impressive machine of endless touring and a terrific discography. With the addition of Titus Andronicus guitarist Ian O’Neil, their latest album The Black Dirt Sessions came with some serious possibilities.
But somewhere along the way this album turned out to be a total bummer. Bloated with heavy-hearted tracks mulling over religion, death and loss, John McCauley’s gravelly voice transforms into an exhausting whine after five straight songs of whompity-whomp. While The Black Dirt Sessions certainly explores heavier material, the “maturity” that the album reaches for feels forced.
The band manages to slip out of their manic depression and to jar the listener awake somewhere in the middle of the album with “Mange”. The tempo picks up, the bass stirs an inner rhythm, and the bluesy soul-revival sound crescendos into a knockout of an old-school rock guitar solo. It’s a cruel tease of what the album might have been. Damn it!
“When She Comes Home” keeps the momentum tapering a bit longer with its casual guitar strumming and impassioned harmonies that recalls previous records, while the rehashed version of “Christ Jesus” slows it back down with an unbelievably poignant performance that makes the beginning of the album seem even less genuine.
As for the verdict? Shave this record down to an EP and just give us the good stuff. After a year in the spotlight Deer Tick has the street cred. They don’t need some sappy, stripped down songs to prove that they’re maturing.