The Dish Dogs’ New Album Cleans Up
The first time I heard, “Wish I was a Bird” (Track 7) as it was being previewed as an early release to the Dish Dogs eponymously titled album, I thought it was a great version of a cover. However, this is original Dish Dog material and the perfect illustration of classic Dish Dogs music – original, familiar and entertaining. The arrangement is brilliant and the blending of dark and light voices allows the song to soar. The confidence of delivery of the song allows the delivery to be sharp, direct and fun. And so it goes with every track on the album. Chris Howdyshell’s latest incarnation, The Dish Dogs, have produced a genre bending sound marrying folk, rock, blues and country. Is this what we call Honky-Tonk?
By going into the studio the greatest question The Dish Dogs had to answer was ‘could their high-energy, audience-participation, ensemble LIVE production’ translate to a studio album where the spotlight shifts to the lyrics, rhythms and harmonies, while showcasing the extreme talent that drives the existence of the Dish Dogs?’
The musicianship across the board is incredible – loud, driving, precise and innovative. The Dish Dogs are a mix of older statesmen – Doug Pitts (electric guitar and guitjo); younger guns – Josh Vana (electric guitar, harmonica, vocals), Kyle Oehmke (bass), and Michael Bowman(drums, mandolin, vocals); and the middle guard of Lara Mack(vocals) and Chris Howdyshell(acoustic guitar, vocals) – fronting the band. The sound is familiar in a warm, cozy, ‘I know these guys way.’ Playful music gives way to serious technical guitar rift, soaring harmonica and vocal blends. Michael Bowman’s crisp voice acts as a clear counterpoint to Howdyshell’s seasoned croon. Mack lends a lightness and whimsical dance to the harmonies with her vast range. All of these proceedings are anchored to the Rock ‘n’ Roll traditions by the relentless bass guitar of Kyle Oehmke. Oehmke is technically gifted without predictability. He is a steady hand, when the melodies leave the playing field, acting as an eventual landing strip for the bluesy beats and soulful dirges.
The main criticism is the arrangement of the album. The album seems to start at the point ‘Dry Here for Weeks’ and ‘It’s Not Your Fault,’ which coincidentally are the newest offerings for this album. ‘Leaf Pile’ and ‘She’s An Artist’ are fine songs, but do not catapult the album or showcase the talents of the ensemble. The newest tracks, possibly by virtue of being new, sound fresh and demonstrate the best of Howdyshell’s talents as a lyricist.
No doubt this is grown up music raised on a couple of generations of the masters – Bob Dylan, The Greatful Dead, Allman Brothers Band and Tom Waits. The album’s artwork (courtesy of Bryan Vana) hints at something sad about the music. A broken down one time old reliable station wagon lays wasting in a field with the Appalachians looming beautifully in the distance. Is this our fate? The album is cathartic and revels in Pitts’ guitar guile and pure feast of energy incited by Howdyshell’s maniacal vocals. But this experience is not a purely happy one. If the album is life in miniature, then according to the Dish Dogs – the best it will get is ‘sitting in a big Leaf Pile’, because in order to get over your problems, you’ve got to shut yourself away as evidenced in ‘Dry Here For Weeks’ – a sad song about alcoholism where it seems like the best days are over. Some solace is provided by knowing ‘It’s Not Your Fault’, but the truth is, it is your fault and relationships are an ebb and flow of chance and confidence and self-change. ‘Whiskey Momma’, (a great addition to the album and a tip of the cap to local musician Rob St. Ours) is a cynical song about an absence of faith and celebrating life in the present moment. Tom Weights, obvious in its acknowledgment, is out of place and is the weakest song on the album compared to its similarly themed ‘Then You’ll Know’ and ‘I Got A Little More’, which are ironic and twisting, simultaneously captivating and heart-wrenching musings on life bringing us once again to that scrapped car in that anonymous yard in the Shenandoah Valley (see Album Cover).
The Dish Dogs are a Live band to be experienced in person and this album delivers as near to the front row as you could be.
From the ashes of the band Red River Roller Coaster, a new breed of rock 'n' roller has emerged. One could describe them in a language common only to poor, laboring restaurateurs. You know the guy in the back that nobody talks to, that might only get tipped out a couple bucks, but has made sure your silverware is spotless? I'm talking about the dish dog.
Singing the blues quietly to himself... no more.
Patiently hoping some big shot record company guy will be in the dining room and suddenly hear the faint sounds of love and pain resonating off the plates and cups....no more.
These five guys and a gal are out and about sharing their stories of pain, suffering, love and brief moments of bliss, that create our existence. True songs of real-life situations; that's what you'll hear on this CD. Songs about what is happening to all of us.
"The band’s songs are musically diverse, with the musicians dabbling in electric guitar, banjar, harmonica, tambourine, drums, mandolin, acoustic guitar and the glue that ties it all together: the vocals."
The Dish Dogs are a pretty eclectic bunch. Lead singer, acoustic guitarist, writer, and composer Chris Howdyshell, leads the band with a heavy dose of fibber jabber. With Doug Pitts and Joshua Vana taking turns on Lead Guitar, you truly get a guitar-heavy album. Michael Bowman, a classically-trained guitarist, sits down on drums this time, adding mandolin on a couple tracks as well. (Little fingers)Kyle Oehmke plays electric bass and Lara Mack provides the gorgeous harmony.
The Dish Dogs are known for their great live performances, so check out the CD and then find 'em in the hills and valleys of Virginia for a show.