Dirty Pesos Album Review: Whiskey Angel

The moniker “Dirty Pesos” rolls off the tongue and conjures images of border-crossing bandits laden with sacks of ill-gotten gain. Sweat, dust, a little blood, and a dogged determination to get away with it. That imagery, though romanticized a bit, is a fitting figurative assessment of this band and their first cd release, Whiskey Angel.

In a day when Country Music is as fractioned off as a geriatric’s pill case, these five hombres have thrown Texas convention out the window of their tour vehicle and they write and play music THEY love. There are no notions of fitting into the current ideas of what Texas Music is supposed to look or sound like, no uniform that any of them wear. There is no presumption that they must put retreads on a too-often tired ol‘ Red Dirt machine. There are no aspirations of being the next Keen, no need felt to hop on the Randy Rogers or Cody Canada bandwagons, and certainly no pressure to folk everyone out with Van Zandt-ness. There is just this simple objective: to satisfy their notion that the music they love to create will spend a lot of time in a lot of truck cd players across the country, and that their live shows will leave audiences sweaty and satisfied each time they blitzkrieg the stage. Bet the prize Brahma that that will indeed happen.

The first single slated to be released is the rousing “She’s Looking At You”, an ode to that smoldering and elusive woman in “Daisy Dukes and cowboy boots and a shirt that just says CASH“, with the congratulatory affirmation that “tonight, she’s looking at you.“ This first single serves as a perfect statement of intent and purpose, setting the mood for a ride down very familiar roads that we’ve all been down and remember with a gleam in our eye.

The title track has already been filmed as the album’s promotional video clip and will be debuted imminently. The clip was shot in Nocona, Texas by Texas Red Productions, a powerful North Texas media team which consists of founders Melissa and Dale Arnold, who have been diligently chronicling the Texas/Oklahoma music scene for years now. Lyrically, the song is a depiction of the desperate need for attention and solitude, commitment and freedom, in equal measure. Again, familiar territory: the moving depiction of what is often the best kind of relationship between two people of the restless, bohemian sort. These two tracks are the band’s chosen pace-setters for what may very well turn out to be one of the most played releases to emerge here in some time.

There are many elements that, sonically, make this collection of songs something that ought to be heard.

Tom McElvain’s strong baritone voice is one of the most obvious. Unlike many vocalists in this region, McElvain‘s voice thunders with a resonance that exudes violence and velvet, simultaneously. In fact, every member of the Dirty Pesos offers a very furious-but-controlled delivery on everything from the obligatory rodeo song “One Last Ride” (latter-day LeDoux fans will be pumping fists to this one), to the left-hook outta nowhere finale, “My Masterpiece.”  These are all you need to understand that McElvain has his own damn voice – he doesn’t need anyone else’s, thank you. What he does benefit enormously from is that band of berserkers who not only played on the “Whiskey Angel” recordings, but they invade every performance stage with him. McElvain, Kyle Wade Smith (Keyboards, harmony vocals), Mark Lafon (Lead guitar – one of the finest to sprout from the fertile soil here), Brad King (bass, harmony vocals), and Scott “Cowboy” Lytle (drum warheads) have conjured a vision of life that could’ve been lived anywhere in the country, but is particularly of a Texas texture. The pigments that color this collection of songs are not exotic, rare ingredients from the West Indies, or concocted in obscure laboratories of some remote location. Nor are they the product of an opium dreamy poet. They are derived from the simple blood, joy, sweat, and tears of the common landscape, rendered in the colloquial tongue of the constituents whose stories they convey. Every drop distilled right there in the trenches. No pomp or pretension. In the stunning “My Masterpiece”, the closing track, McElvain’s summation of his journey describes it best: “Another picture in my mind, painted on the walls of time, showing the colors that I see. Yellows, greens, reds, and blues, good byes and I love yous, welcome to my masterpiece.”

Listen & Buy Dirty Pesos: Whiskey Angel

‘Nuff said.

Upcoming Performances:

Sat, Oct 27  Hank’s Texas Grill – McKinney, TX

Sat, Nov 3  Cool Beans – Denton, TX

Sun, Dec 23 Cowboy’s – Colorado Springs, CO

~Jeffery Hopson
Jeff resides in Garland, TX and has been in the Lone Star State since September of 1989, when he moved here from his native Tennessee. After three and a half years in Nashville, he channeled the spirit of his upper East Tennessee kinsman, a certain diplomat named Crockett, and stated, “You may all go to hell…I will go to Texas”.  Jeff is a songwriter and performs often in the North Texas region, and has a collection of short fiction in the works.

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