Since I'm a crusty, bitter hermit and don't get out much, when a local CD comes into my claw-like hands it brings all the excitement and uncertainty of a $1.00 grab bag. With absolutely zero expectations and, at the time, no liner notes, I gave the CD Dive Bomberz by the band of the same name a spinů and was pleasantly surprised to find that my grab bag contained a $10.00 prize!
Twelve well-written songs adorn this album, each carefully crafted by Mark Paul Smith who plays guitar and sings lead vocals. The nucleus of the band consists of Smith, bassist John Morreale, and drummer extraordinaire Thomas "Cool Ray" Cooley. Joining them on this musical adventure is local favorite Kenny Taylor on guitar and mandolin, George Conner on keyboards, Paul Kioebge on banjo, and a cast of thousands, many of whom also sing background vocals.
The album kicks off with "Drivin' All Night", a driving (sorry about that) country-rock song that should appeal to any fan of good music, regardless of genre preference. Some great guitar licks bring this music to life as does some fiddle embellishments, although it's difficult to call it a fiddle as this instrument is played by Fort Wayne Philharmonic violinist Jesse Hawkins. Kenny Taylor weighs in with his mandolin on the sorrowful love song "Still In Love With You", which leads into the dark humor of "The Dark Side of Love", an up tempo song with great vocal harmonies, piano and organ, and a dead-on electric guitar solo. In an abrupt about-face, "You're Not Over Me" drops back to the era of 50s sock-hop rock with a soaring saxophone played by Randy Villars and a melody that could easily have been stolen from the period. As you might expect, "Evil Clown" is dark, heavy country-rock with a grinding rhythm section, a smidge more distortion on the guitars, and a wicked mini-guitar solo. Harmony vocals by Amy Szwabowicz add a new timbre to the album on the track "Only Yesterday" which is a bit more country than previous songs but still not excessive in the twang-department. More violin, um, fiddle, piano and a well-written melody make this a very strong track. Heavier country-rock is to be found in "Throw Those Roses Away", a song which starts with a zesty bass line that folds into a tight rhythm riff. The xylophone, light acoustic guitar, and crisp vocal harmonies in the upbeat "Slippin' Through My Fingers" all combine to give the song a classic Jimmy Buffet feel that is sure to satisfy any spirit-imbibing crowd.
Recorded and co-produced by Robin Jenney at Sweetwater Sound, the production values on this release easily match the masterful musicianship and expert song writing. Each of the twelve tracks have been carefully crafted and such attention to detail makes this album a delight for any discerning listener, even if said listener is not normally drawn to country music. Satisfy your need for quality local music by stopping by a Wooden Nickel store or Castle Gallery to check out this solid release from Dive Bomberz!
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, November 2002.