The Dirty Hands first album
By Marc Donadieu
Glacier City Gazette
It has been an exciting summer for The Dirty Hands. They released their first album, titled Girdwood, in early June and the band has a long list of tour dates through the summer.
The band has reached an exciting apex in its musical career. Band members have noticed their musical evolution and the positive effects of recording an album they are proud of.
“We looked at ourselves more seriously,” said Chris Lesesne. ‘Wow! We actually are doing this. We recorded an album, and it’s, you know, decent.”
The Dirty Hands went into the studio with 14 songs and came out with eight on their album. Band members were quick to credit the helpful influence of producer Martin Severin, who also owns Anchorage businesses Studio 2200 and TapRoot.
“We were open to new ideas with him because everything was so new,” said drummer Andrew Saden. “We were very adamant about getting him to be open with some of his suggestions about how a song should go or what should change about it.”
The band appreciated the advice while recording together in a studio for the first time. Severin’s suggestions, whether followed or not, got the band thinking and sent them in a different direction musically. The practice of listening to each other and working collaboratively is part of what makes up the cohesive sound of The Dirty Hands.
Severin’s knowledge of his gear and its tonality helped the six band members build its sonic arsenal in the studio, find what they liked or wanted in instrumental sounds and be able to know the exact gear to use to create it on the album. Their efforts paid off.
Girdwood sounds sonically full and varied without being forceful. The complex mix of instrumentation is deep and resonant, while being nuanced and dynamic in creating a bluesy atmosphere with a bit of funk. Each song sounds tasteful without being gimmicky or flashy.
The musicians are working together as a collective to create a powerful sound. While many of their songs’ tempos are slower, they never drift off into dullness, staleness or unnecessary repetition. There is always something going on in the music.
Band members credit their engineer for the album’s sound quality. “James Glaves did the mixing, and he made it sound absolutely awesome,” said bassist Sean Patrick.
“I Lied” starts off the album with gritty, country sounding vocals telling a tale of betrayed love. The variety of instrumentation keeps the song fresh and moving along. The baritone saxophone and barroom piano inflections match well with the slow tempo that builds to a satisfying finish.
When members were asked to list some of the album’s highlights, “Peace in the Valley” was a unanimous choice. The contributions from guest vocalist Kat Moore were duly noted.
“Kat Moore as a guest vocalist on the album was really good,” Saden said, “especially because it ties into how we even came to be at that studio and how we came to be reenergized with music and chose that as a path as opposed to whatever else we were doing.”
Bassist Sean Patrick also made some vocal contributions on “Peace in the Valley” that stood out and the band wanted to acknowledge.
“‘Peace in the Valley’ is the 6/8 tune where he sings on in a deep, deep voice. It’s nice and slow, almost like an ode to Pink Floyd that came out. It’s basically a little canvas for him to paint a picture vocally,” Saden said.
“Then there are these big swells of sound with everybody moving together. James Glaves did a number on our album in a very positive way,” Saden added.
“Put On,” the second to last song on the album, features some complex timing using a build up of tension and release. There is silence followed by textured playing with a variety of instruments having a moment working together.
The final song on Girdwood is “Jubilee,” which begins with an acoustic blues guitar, followed by Eli Whitney’s baritone sax working its way into the musical dialogue. Then there is a short harmonica lead and more up-tempo instrumentation.
It’s a fine mix of collective playing and a worthy signoff to an engaging album. “Jubilee” also has an interesting sonic accident that turned into an unexpected bonus during the song’s beginning.
“There were some really strange, serendipitous things that happened,” Lesesne said. “On ‘Jubilee,’ if you listen closely, you can hear right before the lyrics come in there’s the sound of a bottle cap. I dropped a bottle cap, and it hit the Hammond bench [makes spinning bottle cap sound] and then he starts singing. It was in the mic.”
The success of The Dirty Hands is no accident. It’s the result of hard work, musical curiosity and working together. Girdwood is a snapshot in time showing where the band is musically in the studio, but that will change as the band continues to grow as they absorb lessons playing live and develop new material.
As an album, Girdwood is a beginning that portends an interesting musical journey for The Dirty Hands. Be sure to come along for the musical ride.
Girdwood can be purchased at the band’s website www.thedirtyhandsak.com, Coast Pizza, the Oso Loco taco truck in Old Girdwood, and at any of the band’s shows. It should be available on iTunes soon.
To see The Dirty Hands locally:
June 24 – Trail Lake Lodge (Moose Pass)
June 25 – Brown Bear Summer Fest (Indian)
June 30 – Chair 5 (Girdwood)
July 2 – Forest Fair (Girdwood)