Review Summary: Dixie Dregs do what they know best, produce high quality jazz rock fusion courtesy of guitar maestro Steve Morse's songwriting talents, and a group of top tier musicians in support
As eerie as the album cover is (almost Silent Hill-esque in its’ aesthetic), it’s kind of fitting for the music presented here. There certainly are no vocals present, and it is a naked and bare presentation of the band’s music. All five members were in their prime in terms of skill and musical ability, and this was to be co-founding member Allen Sloan’s final album with the Dregs. A suitable swansong.
The production is polished but organic. All of the instruments sound pretty crisp, with Andy West’s bass in particular sounding very pleasant, but the album doesn’t sound overproduced, and that’s an advantage. Steve Morse, as per usual, presents a host of different guitar tones and effects that are at times driving the song, while at other times are complementing a melody, or being used for a lead. I imagine guitarists must enjoy playing this album at home, as a personal challenge for themselves. Such is the diversity here at display, and Steve Morse displays his complete skillset throughout the course of the album in terms of his playing as well as songwriting. Bringing all the instruments together to perform a fusion of styles ranging from jazz fusion to rock, to bluegrass and classical, and funk at times.
The songwriting is more focused on Unsung Heroes
and that’s evident from the song lengths, as the majority of the songs hover around the four minute mark, with the exception of “Day 444” which just crosses seven minutes. But as is tradition on most, if not all Dregs albums, there needs to be a six-plus minute track for Steve Morse more “Experimental” and “Proggy” inclinations. T Lavitz’ contributions are excellent as per usual, with his usage of organic instrumentation being particularly enjoyable. In him Steve had found the perfect keyboardist that was equally adept in playing aggressive rock music as he was with delicate classical and technical jazz music. It feels as if there was room for even more of his presence. Allen Sloan's violin tone and performance is as stellar as ever. Joining in the music whenever needed, and meshing smoothly. On this album there are swirling futuristic analogue synths, floating violin melodies, complex harmonies between the guitar and violin often, driving and inventive basslines, alongside an array of musical intermeshing that has at times multiple melodies being played in tandem, yet still sounding melodious.
On the contrary, and to be on the Devil’s side for a minute, at times some of the compositions can feel slightly meandering, even with their shorter lengths, which has been a problem on a few Dregs songs in the past. Another gripe of mine is that the band doesn’t tread much new music territory on this album. Now they may be victims of their own making since they’ve covered nearly every genre within the realm of what’s possible with their five instruments, but possibly some more sonic experimentation could have been explored by the group to freshen things up slightly. With that being said, that is not to fault this album in any way. This album is still a very strong outing, and another stellar addition to the group’s discography. A mature and reliably enjoyable Dixie Dregs album, and a worthy investment of your time if you enjoy instrumental music that indulges in rock, jazz fusion, bluegrass, classical, and everything in between.
Rock and Roll Park