Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
In a world oversaturated by arena and stadium filling rock and pop acts that have been on the scene for five minutes, it’s good to get back to the basics and here something not written and played by a room full of computers.
Having been whipping up a storm since the late 1970’s Alan Clayton and his roving band of troubadours The Dirty Strangers have been doing things the hard way, their passion and commitment total. Here then is an outfit who’ve earned their stripes and new album ‘Hunter’s Moon’ is a joyful celebration of their craft and the sheer honesty and connectivity of rock ‘n’ roll.
Three years in the making but sounding fresh and vital, this eleven-track testimony to back to basics good time rock is shot through with a renegade fire, a cheeky grin and great songwriting that dazzles. Certainly, there’s a live feel that’s captured here that puts you in the centre of the action but the warmth and wordsmithery are the things that leave the most lasting impressions. This is an album you can dance to but it’s one that also makes you smile with the touches of wit and big-hearted passion.
Given Clayton’s links with the biggest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world, the touches of Stonesy roots in the opening dirty title track show that both understand that primal beat more than anything, the slide guitar adding its own bluesy licks. The Dirty Strangers are far from shadows of the bigger band though certainly, their spirit more of a disreputably wild cousin, with a distinct flavour and personality of their own.
A strutting ‘La La La I Couldn’t Care Less’ and one of the world’s best love songs in the form of ‘Pirates Don’t Get Pensions’, a tale of the reality of working with bands, are knock outs and ‘My Girl’s a Getaway Driver’ raw, punky fun. Things slow a little for the Country blues of ‘Cell Block No.5’ whilst ‘T’Troublemaker’ rolls along nicely and both show it’s not just foot-to-the-floor riots on here. Clayton, along with the core members of The Dirty Strangers in the form of guitarist John Rollason, bass player Cliff Wright and drummer Lawrence Fox, inject everything with a bit of soul and the delightful ‘State of Affair’ mixes Stones swagger with Elvis Costello New Wave nous.
The revisited ‘Gold Cortina’, originally from 2009’s ‘West 12 to Wittering’ is given a gritty 1950’s throwback rumble and an evocative ‘Stay for a Little While’ features some great vocals as it weaves its tender and hopeful age-old plea. A stripped back ‘Anything You Say’ closes the album with an honest and brilliant bit of storytelling, its raw structure adding to its power. With additional contributions from The Quireboys very own Guy Griffin and Pip Mailing and the late, lamented Dirty Strangers keys player Scott Mulvey, along with the then thirteen-year-old Holly Clayton on drums on ‘La La La…’, ‘Hunter’s Moon’ is a rough diamond that instantly catches the heart whilst having an echo that will stay with you.
It may not boast the huge budget and countless tweaks of some of the huge albums that have been out over the past ten years, but it’s got more heart, soul and honesty than all of them put together. An authentic voice in a sea of pretenders and pretense, The Dirty Strangers are the real deal and one of our finest. Embrace them and the undiluted wonder of great songs, played with style and love.