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Album Review : Dirty Honey: Dirty Honey EP/LP

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Review by Pete Finn for MPM

Dirty Honey is an American rock band from Los Angeles, formed in 2017. It consists of Marc LaBelle (vocals), John Notto (guitar), Justin Smolian (bass), and Corey Coverstone (drums).

Their self-titled extended play was self-released in March 2019. The single ‘When I’m Gone’ reached number 1 in the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart, making them the first unsigned band to ever do so. Their second single, ‘Rolling 7s,’ went into the Top 5.

Dirty Honey opened for The Who, Guns ’N’ Roses, Slash and Alter Bridge, and was the “must-see” at major U.S. rock festivals. On their first U.S. headline tour, the band sold out every date. The band made sure their self-titled debut album captured the firecracker dynamics and energy of their live sound.

This is a new edition release that combines their original six track EP, along with their debut eight track album also called ‘Dirty Honey’ released during 2021. Unfortunately, there are no ‘Bonus Tracks’ included. Therefore, we end up with 14-tracks and a running time of 54 minutes.

The tracks from the EP are first, so we open with the single that launched their success, ‘When I’m Gone’. A quick riff, a crash of drums, LaBelle’s vocal and we’re off. The beats are steady and carry the grinding riffs and clever vocal tempo changes straight into your ears. You don’t need to move this track is coming for you. The chorus is catchy and soon engraved across your sub-conscious.

‘Rolling 7s’ is slower, more bluesy, Notto’s guitar hook pulls you in. The rumble of Smolian’s bass keeps you focused, Notto and Coverstone’s lead breaks and short drum rolls show plenty of dimension to their song writing. LaBelle uses a wonderfully varied selection of tones, as he demonstrates his range.

A slightly more radio friendly number is ‘Heartbreaker’, it’s steady and vocal heavy, which is no bad thing when the vocalist is Marc LaBelle. Notto gives us a not so gentle nudge in the ribs that Dirty Honey are a rock band with an explosive solo, Coverstone backs up that sentiment with a powerful display of tub thumping.

The bass of Smolian, and Notto’s hard-hitting riff introduce ‘Down the Road’, a more 70’s classic rock sound. The mid-track bass and drum beat is ground shaking, whilst you try and gather your balance Notto punches you on the nose with his solo.

LaBelle’s vocal style reminds me of Steve Tyler and Robert Plant, this is really demonstrated in ‘Scars’. It has a sleazy dirty tone running through it, complimented by LaBelle’s tones. ‘Scars’ is part moody, part “look at me”, a fabulous combination. The band open up and show what they can do. It’s pretty impressive.

The final track from the EP section is ‘Break You’, a bluesy one, LaBelle is speaking the lyrics against a strong rhythm section. It’s passionate and emotional. Notto’s guitar is considerate to the feelings being portrayed. It makes you want to hug and sway.

We ease into the Long Player with ‘California Dreamin’’ the first offering. This has a swagger and in your face attitude, you can almost picture LaBelle doing the Axl Rose slither. The guitar solo laid down by Notto has you cruising down LA’s Sunset Strip. Corey Coverstone’s drum beat gets you nodding along, you’re drawn in. You feel it.

Next, it’s ‘The Wire’, a chugging riff and hard beat play ‘Ying’, to LaBelle’s ‘Yang’ of high vocal. A great contrast that works brilliantly. John Notto throws in a screaming solo to bring the track to a close.

The chanted lyrics of ‘Tied Up’ ride with the blues/funk riffs. The throbbing bass delivered by Smolian is the heartbeat of the track, he controls the tempo. The outro is all about LaBelle, again he shows great range as he sings a cappella.

We move to ‘Take My Hand’, think Led Zeppelin with a RHCP bassline. This track has presence, now throw in an 80’s LA band’s guitar solo and you have a real potent sledgehammer of a cocktail. You know that if you can make it back to the bar, you’ll want the same again.

Up tempo and quick describes ‘Gypsy’, the riffs and beats are bouncing with the happy sounding lyrics of LaBelle. Coverstone’s drums are precise in joining the track together. Both Notto and Smolian have their strings catapulting riffs through the air.

Another fine example of the way Dirty Honey produce hooky riffs and tunes, can be found in ‘No Warning’. LaBelle places the lyrics carefully between the beats. The punchy riffs keeps the attention to the end.

The penultimate track from the collection is ‘The Morning’ a rocking number with plenty of groove. The start sees LaBelle singing with a bit of a growl, he easily switches to a higher tone, it’s the best of both worlds and an ability that seems to have missed some rock singers. Notto unleashes a squealing solo, before dropping back in to classic riffage.

The final track is ‘Another Last Time’, starting with a Slash like guitar, this has a Southern Rock vibe, a bit of a ballad. You feel the emotion, it has the hallmarks of a stadium anthem, with subtle harmonies and melodies. Notto is let loose for the final time skilfully supported by the Coverstone and Smolian rhythm section. A great way to finish.

Musically, I loved it, it has some brilliant well-constructed tracks, with ‘Scars’ being an absolute slammer. It may be relatively short in running time, but it’s all about the quality, not the quantity.

But, as a concept of buying material you may already own, I’m not so sure, especially as there are no new tracks. So, buy a T-shirt or a concert ticket to support the band. Maybe, it’s a must for the total fan who has to have everything, and without doubt, it’s a must if you don’t have any Dirty Honey in your life as yet. I will definitely be down at the front on the Saturday at Download next month, when Dirty Honey hit the stage.

📸 Will Wittmann

Listen to “Another Last Time'” → https://orcd.co/anotherlasttime

Listen / Buy the debut ‘Dirty Honey’ LP → https://orcd.co/dirtyhoney3

See us on tour – visit https://www.dirtyhoney.com/tour-dates

For dates and tickets! Connect with Dirty Honey online:

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/dirtyhoneyb

Twitter – https://twitter.com/DirtyHoneyBand

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DirtyHoneyMu

Website – https://www.dirtyhoney.com/

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