Monday, October 5, 2009

Free Dirt - (1986)

The band's first full-length album found the group starting to come into its own more and more. While the various influences that can be referred to are still present, Died Pretty are starting to sound more like a group finding a distinct sound instead of taking a cue from good influences. Helped in the studio by a variety of guests on everything from sax to pedal steel guitar, and with good, full production from Rob Younger continuing the job he started with the Pre-Deity tracks, Free Dirt is a fine, fiery effort. "Wig-Out" serves as good an example of its quality as any — with martial drumming and a very Celtic drinking tune atmosphere made just that much more intense by being performed on rock instruments; it shows how the band hotwires the past for its own purposes. Opening song "Blue Sky Day" is, perhaps, the band's best-yet, an energetic but never overbearing rocker with a comfortable glow and surge to it, Brett Myers' really wonderful guitar matched by the additional performances on mandolin and violin. His work throughout the album is exemplary, powerful but never pointlessly showy, while Brunetti's keyboards take the melodic lead more often than not, calling to mind Ray Manzarek's often-similar role in the Doors, while not sounding like a clone of same. Similarly Ron S. Peno's Jim Morrison inspirations are clear, but his higher-pitched, less self-obsessed singing is in many ways warmer and more immediate than those of his forebear. Top it off with the fine Mark Lock/Chris Welsh rhythm section, and it's clear a crack band is at work. "Through Another Door," sung by Myers in a warm, winning fashion, the grand concluding solos on "Life to Go" and "Next to Nothing," and the beautifully cryptic "The 2000 Year Old Murder," are among the many highlights. As a fine bonus, the CD version includes both of the stand-alone singles "Stoneage Cinderella" and "Yesterday's Letters." (

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