By Bob Doerschuk
© 2011 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.
Words like “gritty” come to mind when The Dirt Drifters take to the stage. Of course, there’s no shortage of grit out there, but something in the sound of this five-piece separates it from the pack.
Maybe it’s the vivid images on these 11 tracks performed by band members: drummer Nick Diamond, lead singer/guitarist Matt Fleener, singer/guitarist Ryan Fleener, bassist Jeremy Little and singer/guitarist Jeff Middleton. The images — cigarettes and beer cans on “Sun Goes Down” (written by Matt Fleener, Middleton and Rivers Rutherford), the bullet holes, blue lights and traces of cheap perfume on “Married Men and Motel Rooms” (Middleton, Mark Irwin and Josh Kear) — seem to have been scraped up from a cellar of hard-time memories. (The group wrote or co-wrote all but one track on the album.)
Then there’s the performance, the power chords, the galloping groove that feels like you’re taking corners a little too fast on “Something Better” (Diamond, Matt Fleener, Ryan Fleener and Middleton), the blue-collar epic that John Mellencamp might have conceived had he grown up in a Southern factory town (“Always a Reason,” Ryan Fleener, Middleton and Justin Wilson), the way that lyrics come to life in the union of Matt Fleener’s whiskey-rough lead vocals and pristine backup harmonies.
Drawn from New Jersey, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Tennessee, The Dirt Drifters found each other in Nashville. Warner Bros. signed them and producer Justin Niebank captured their spirit on This Is My Blood. And they’re not waiting for success to come to them; on tour dates beginning in August, they’ve giving two copies of their debut CD to audience members, one to keep and the other to pass along. They call it “Give Blood”; we call it building a base one fan at a time.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
(ALL ANSWERS BY MATT FLEENER)
“Steve Earle because of his lack of boundaries. I like Johnny Cash for the same reason.”
CD IN YOUR STEREO
“Guy Clark’s Somedays the Song Writes You.”
FAVORITE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
“Anything but an RV.”
“When I was a kid, I would sit on my grandma’s kitchen floor and play with the magnets on her fridge while she cooked and listened to music. I keep one of those magnets with me on the road.”
SONG YOU’D LOVE TO COVER
“‘Wild Horses,’ by the Rolling Stones.
“Me and my brother singing ‘Modern Day Romance’ and ‘Pancho and Lefty’ back in OKC. We butchered ‘Pancho and Lefty’ pretty bad.”
TITLE OF YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY