Harlis Sweetwater Delves into Heavy Rock, Blues and Soul on ‘Diesel Dirt & Spit’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Harlis Sweetwater is an artist from Orange County, California, an area that has produced such noteworthy acts as Social Distortion and No Doubt. One of his previous bands (Barrelhouse) was placed at #33 in a list of the 129 (an unusual number to be sure) greatest Orange County bands. Whether with Barrelhouse or Harlis Sweetwater Band, he has long combined blues, soul, and rock and roll for a sound that is easy to move to.

With the new album Diesel Dirt & Spit, Sweetwater is striking out on his own. This EP still includes plenty of blues and soul, but this one goes a little heavier on the rock and roll than previous efforts.

The album begins with “The Boogie” and, at the beginning, you can’t help but notice the similarity to AC/DC. You can hear it not only in the tone of the guitar but also in the sort of call and response between the guitar and the drums. From there, it grows into the fusion of hard rock and blues that AC/DC has played forever. Sweetwater ties the whole thing together with growling vocals that equally blend blues and soul. With its loud guitar and pounding beat, this song is just as good for an arena as it is for your local rock club. If the aim of an artist is to grab the listener’s attention immediately, Sweetwater succeeds with this one.

A distinctly old-time thread runs through this EP. Part of it is the blues influence, although this is no front-porch blues  Part of it is in the lyrics.. “Slow Burn” is a good example. While he plays a loud, groovy riff over a pounding beat, he sings, “Roll me, baby, like you roll your biscuit dough. Don’t want to be your man, girl. I just wanna be your jelly roll.” That precedes a chorus with a howl that takes you back to the early days of rock and roll.

“Somebody’s Baby” is another example of his ability to write memorable lyrics. At the beginning, he sings, “She’s someobyd’s baby, but she’s dancin’ like she’s free as a bird.” The rhythm section lays down some rock and roll reminiscent of Roy Orbison songs while Sweetwater plays a guitar part that leans more toward Alice Cooper.

The EP ends with a cover of the blues classic “Spoonful”. It has the same deliberate tempo although the guitar in this one is much heavier than in other versions of the song. That being said, the growl in Sweetwater’s voice would no doubt make Howlin’ Wolf proud.

Diesel Dirt & Spit by Harlis Sweetwater contains only four songs, but they are songs that will get you moving and leave you wanting more. In fact, since this is such a small (but solid) sample, it’s safe to say that you might find yourself listening to this EP repeatedly.

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