As if the the Gods of Southern rock came down from the Heavens to smite a new band out of the hard Alabama iron, these dirty and sweaty mothers from Gadsden, Alabama can grow hair on your chest just from listening to them. Them Dirty Roses can deflower virgins simply by them being in the audience at a show. They’re so virile, their piss grows hair on contact.
In the war to return danger, blood, guts, and balls to modern music, these are the first dudes you want with their boots on the beach, beating back the hordes of bad performers, waylaying bland music like a bunch of possessed berserkers. Forget saving country music, Then Dirty Roses are saving all of music. They’re warrior musicians out to capture Southern rock glory and immortality, or die trying.
Led by James Ford on lead vocals and guitar, brother Frank Ford on drums, lead guitarist Andrew Davis, and bass player Ben Crain, the group left their hometown by piling into an RV, and moving into the same house in Nashville, TN like The Monkees to try and make it. Their debut self-titled EP from 2017 drew some buzz for sure, especially the lead song “Cocaine & Whiskey.” But especially over the last year or two they’ve been booked on some massive festivals and drawn a strong following by putting on excellent live shows.
Now it’s time to take all of that momentum and six years of experience as full time musicians, and pour it into a studio project that can do justice to Them Dirty Roses and what they’re doing to help keep Southern Rock alive. This is what they accomplish with Lost in the Valley of Hate & Love Vol. I. Though they are officially calling this an EP, at eight songs with 4-minute run times, it feels like a full project, with a Vol. 2 anticipated in the future.
The album captures the aggressive and propulsive sound of Them Dirty Roses live, including the infectious and character-laden vocals of James Ford, and the monster lead licks by Andrew Davis. There are also some surprising and welcome acoustic moments to bookend the album, and even some 12-string guitar strums reminiscent of Jimmy Page folk-inspired pre-metal in certain moments.
Lost in the Valley definitely tells a story, and it’s one that’s not hard to imagine is true-to-life to Them Dirty Roses. Though the opening song is about a corrupt preacher that doesn’t necessarily fit the concept, the rest of the record is very much about being a rock band lured by the road, making it, and all the temptations they face along the way, leading them down paths where their Southern traditional upbringing and the women waiting for them at home get lost in the shuffle.
Though you probably wouldn’t call this a songwriter album or a straight up concept, a story arc and cohesive theme most certainly presents itself and enhances the listening experience, and the writing shows a lot of honesty and introspection along with the more salacious accounts of living on the road. Since the story is so autobiographical, it’s probably not something the average listener may be able to relate to, but it’s something the audience can certainly experience vicariously through the band and this immersive album.
Sometimes you see a “Vol. I” project and you just know it’s likely not to lead to a “Vol. 2” let alone a “Vol. 3.” But with this album, you almost need a sequel. Spoiler alert, but the album ends with a broken home and broken heart. In the war for their souls, Then Dirty Roses have chosen the road and rock ‘n roll over the loyalty and stability of the home and family life. But it may not be that way forever.
The story may not be fulfilled and leaves you with a cliffhanger, but Lost in the Valley of Hate & Love is definitely satiating of your Southern rock appetites. Them Dirty Roses are currently defining the hard rock edge of Southern music, and this album feels essential to the modern Southern rock catalog.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8.2/10)
– – – – – – – – – –
Purchase/Listen to Lost in the Valley of Hate & Love Vol. 1