For their third album the Southampton based skiffle quartet, The Dodge Brothers, decamped from the south of England to the Deep South of the USA, and Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee in particular, to create a set of ten original songs that take their music to a new level.
The most striking thing, as The Sun Set begins, is the very basic nature of the sound – it is clear throughout that this was largely recorded by four men in one room with a few microphones and a tape recorder running. This presents a sound that is fairly bold for any band creating a new record but, with a couple of what might be intentional outtakes, and the general sound of the room they were in, the album ends up sounding at once perfectly fine for a CD while clearly retaining its vintage edge.
While this production gives it less immediate punch than previous album Louisa And The Devil what it does do is perfectly compliment the band’s style that, really, has moved beyond its skiffle origins into more full on country, and having a genuine American, Mike Hammond, fronting the band certainly adds to that. This complementary nature comes in the form of a warmth to the tones and sounds that is something I have rarely heard and I can therefore only put down to being something of the vibe of recording an album by night in Memphis.
This is particularly noticeable on Strange Weather where The Dodge Brothers mix darker hued country with this warmth to make something that has a genuinely special sound. Now, I will admit that this lack of punch compared to the previous album has meant that it has taken me a few listens to genuinely appreciate it, so, if you’re getting hold of a copy, give it a few listens before sitting in judgement (unless you like it from the off, in which case, great!).
The Sun Set deals with many of the same issues as The Dodge Brothers past work, but that really is to be expected, as country music in general tends to stick to similar topics, but, as ever being from the UK today, and featuring members such as Mark Kermode who are certainly at least politically aware, means that alongside the songs of wine, women and locomotive travel we also get a sense of social politics and ‘current affairs’, particularly on songs like Banker’s Blues which acts as a far less angry and more fitting complement to Louisa And The Devil’s 42 Days.
Every song on this album feels like a well-rounded whole, and, for the first time, all 10 songs are original compositions which gives the feeling that The Dodge Brothers have now found their sound. While Louisa And The Devil had moments of obvious (and largely successful) experimentation, what we get here feels far more complete and hints at a band that have reached a sense of their own musical maturity, while not losing the power behind the songs, which is still there.
The guitar sound on the record particularly stood out to me as it combines enough twang, reverb and drive to hit a sweet spot that is rarely heard and must simply come from the use of genuine vintage equipment the likes of which the band had access too on these sessions.
The Sun Set is rounded off with the haunting ballad Wildflower that sticks in the head enough that it managed to leave a sense of warm, dry summer nights with me on a windy, rainy and overcast afternoon for a good few minutes.
Here The Dodge Brothers have delivered a great set of songs that has something truly unique to them, while also being very much archetypal of their chosen genre, and if you like your music based on a sense of honesty and purity this is more than worth picking up.