With 2012’s Black Liquor, Dash Rip Rock proved that they could make a strong and recognizably Dash album with very little of their trademark humor.
This follow up (with their album of Billy Joe Shaver covers coming in between) again presents the band as a no-nonsense power trio. There are vivid characters in every song, with the lyrics taking a Southern-gothic tinge more often than not. And with frontman Bill Davis taking over as producer, this is very much a wall-to-wall guitar album.
It helps that Davis has had this lineup (longtime drummer Kyle Melancon and bassist Patrick Johnson) together for a while. They can still pound home a riff-rocker with style, but they’re also flexible enough to venture some non-Dashlike sounds: There’s a synthesizer (’70s analog variety) on a couple of tracks, and “Run Like a River” builds from its acoustic intro to something more epic, still with the acoustic guitars in the lead. “Broken Arrow” borrows more than its title from Neil Young—they sound like Crazy Horse in full kick—and “Finished,” about an auto racer with a death wish, may be the most ominous swamp-rocker they’ve done.
Lyrically there’s a lot going on here (Davis collaborates on the words with his wife, author Cheryl Wagner). Coming back to back, “Broken Arrow” and “Country Stories” are the biggest surprises: The first is about a lost soul with a bad-luck streak, the second a wrap-up of spooky swamp legends. Closer to home, “Shades” is a lust-driven rocker about stalking an ex in the Dungeon on Toulouse. The most lighthearted track, “Awesome,” is catchy enough to make a perfect onstage shout-along, but at heart it’s a serious song about the elation of new love.
Especially telling is a track called “Loser,” which starts as a putdown of an aging rocker who won’t give it up—until Davis admits he’s in that boat himself. At 1:33 it may be the shortest song in the Dash canon, and one of the fastest as well. And the performance here, with a chicken-picking guitar solo, is flat-out joyful—proof that there’s still glory to be had in sticking around.