It had been a long time since an unknown (to me) opening band got me excited. Opening up for Slash with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators in 2019, Dirty Honey had me captivated from the opening note until they left the stage. My best description of their sound is down and dirty riff-based rock and roll with a strong guitar and signature voice. They have a heavy ‘70s/’80s rock influence with a touch of hippie (but not too much). At the time, all they had was an EP of most of the songs they played at the show. I couldn’t wait for a full album. And now it’s here – the first full-length Dirty Honey CD.
Dirty Honey found success and attention with their EP. “When I’m Gone” hit #1 making them the first unsigned band to achieve that. Their follow-up single “Rolling 7’s” went to #5. They’ve opened for The Who, Guns ‘n’ Roses, and Alter Bridge (besides Slash); all the while building excitement for their album.
The new album should have come out earlier, but Covid-19 (of course) delayed things. That may actually be a good thing, as it gave the band more time to write and prepare more songs. Guitarist John Notto explained in a Parklife DC interview, “ … I think overall we had more tunes to choose from by the time we hit the studio. We realized we were going to have a stronger showing than we would have.” The LP shows growth in the band, both from their chemistry and in the songwriting. It’s a very ‘70s-ish album in that it only has eight songs. But, they pack a knockout punch with those songs.
“California Dreamin’” actually starts off like it might be a little mellow, before kicking into the main riff that blows that notion away. Vocalist Marc Labelle belts out the opening line and makes sure there won’t be any confusing this song with The Mamas & The Papas song of the same name. I’m instantly reminded why they blew me away live. They keep it up throughout the album.
They recorded it live and it sounds like it. This wasn’t built through Pro Tools. The songs sound tight, but with enough slack that keeps it a little dirty. Notto provides the riffs while Labelle hooks us in with his raspy voice. Bassist Justin Smolian and drummer Corey Coverstone provide a solid foundation while keeping things interesting and fun. The time they spent working on the songs in their delay paid off.
There’s not a bad song on the CD. The standouts though are “Gypsy,” “The Wire,” “Tied Up” and “Another Last Time;” which is the closest thing to a ballad here, and closes out the CD. It features keyboards and backup singers that add another dimension to their sound.
The only minor down points are that the production sounds a little flat in some songs. And, while strong, the songs all have a similar structure and sound. I read that they recorded four other songs, but kept them off because they explored some other sounds or directions. They said a couple of them may end up in their setlist, so I hope we get to hear them at some point. I’m excited to hear them expand their sound a bit.
It’s great to have a new band that we can watch and hear develop. I can’t wait to hear these songs live. They’re opening up for The Black Crowes this summer. That’s a perfect spot for them, and I hope they get to play a longer opening set than they did for Slash (six songs). They may be ready to break off on their own headlining tour after another album. Stay tuned. Dirty Honey might be the next great rock band we’ll still be going to see in 20-30 years.
Buy: Dirty Honey