Shelly Dixon Band

As winners of the 2000 Whammies Best New Band award and participants of the last two Essentials albums, the Shelly Dixon Band is no stranger to local fans of good music. After spending large bits of 2001 at Soundmill Studios and enduring much haranguing from eager fans, they have finally released Drive, their debut CD. The eleven original tracks (plus one amazing multi-media "video" of the song "Red Wine") capture the energy and personality of this talented band.

The CD opens with "Tangueray & Lime", an a cappella song that showcases Dixon's strong, unique voice. Cloaked in wisps of reverb, it's easy to imagine Shelly singing this lonely song in a dark, empty room illuminated by a solitary candle. The following track, "Red Wine", is easily one of the strongest cuts on the album with quiet moments (driving alone on a moonless night with the white dividing lines speeding hypnotically past) alternated with an aggressive rock chorus of buzzing guitars. Quivering guitars and Lou Grant's meaty drums characterize the title track, an enigmatic rocker with some more great guitar tones. Shelly's penchant for Bonnie Raitt peeks through on the soothing yet upbeat "Soul Searching" and the acoustic, radio-ready "Daydream", both of which contains palatable hints of country. Flanged guitar that steps aside for some serious power chords are the focal point of "Keep Us Together", which first appeared on Essentials Volume 5. Also on the album is "Life is Good" from Essentials Volume 4 with its haunting vocal melody and cautiously optimistic lyrics. The album closes with "Till Now", an emotive song of a lost relationship with a catchy guitar riff in the verse and a few melodic solos compliments of B. Waikel.

Much to their credit, the songs do not sound like "bar band" songs, and I think you know what I mean. The melodies are memorable and the songs are well constructed to convey Dixon's dark, personal lyrics. As recorded, the songs have a live, airy feel about them with Shelly's voice constantly shrouded in a veil of reverb. A lesser voice would drown under such treatment but Dixon's robust singing cuts through adequately. My biggest complaint goes back to that old adage: "Where's the bass?" Aside from "Red Wine" and "Keep Us Together", Pete Jacobs' bass is sadly little more than a post-subliminal murmur. That flaw aside, the solid songwriting and professional caliber of all involved make Drive a very satisfying release.

This review first appeared in WhatzUp, February 2002.