The Dirty Mac Blues Band has got to be one of the blues scenesí best kept secrets. I donít know how a lead vocalist as raw, powerful, and emotive as Terry Mackie has escaped greater notice.
The bandís new album Victory Bar features Mackieís 13 self-penned tunes steeped in Delta Mississippi blues, Chicago blues, gospel, and modern Boston blues-rock styles. (Yes, the Hub does have its own regional blues sound, one that borrows some timbres from classic rock).
The discís first track “Natural Needs,” cruises in with slide guitar, subtle drumming, and harmonica that swiftly introduce us to a full-flavored blues sound. Mackie belts out with one of those raw emotive voices that many local blues singers wish they had. “Lost Another Man” continues Mackieís penchant for wittily conveying her personal needs. Guitarist “Bashful” Bob Ross injects a perfected brittle guitar lead, while their frequent guest “Shark Bite” Mike Abelson supplies the gravy with his swaying harmonica.
“Donít Say Nothing At All” is a song with more than a heaping of sass and attitude in Mackieís vocal approach and in the rhythm sectionís stride. Ross and Abelson add their perspective timbres in a way that thickens the feeling of Mackieís confrontational story.
“Gospel Stomp,” a slow burner with heart and soul, marches forward with a rolling beat from drummer Lorraine Kleiner, and a bopping groove from bass player Matt Robinson. This rhythm section is not made up of sidemen. Theyíre two out of four essential cornerstones in this tight outfit. They remain palpable and vital throughout the album. From their base, Mackie lets unfold her sultry plea for mercy alongside Rossís emotive switches from chords to singer notes. Abelson, as an added attraction, brings in a drawling Delta harmonica line.
“BBQ,” with its double entendres, sassy vocal, loping bass, bopping drum, and funk guitar riffs will make you smile and dance. Mackie does some sweet high notes here that make listening to her quite pleasurable as her voice glides upward. “Mississippi Twang” gives Ross more room to walk a subtle picking style around the block. His guitar playing is deep and sharp with jagged edges that are full of feeling and meaning, as if he can tell the story with his just his melodies.
Mackie, like an old pro, matches the urgency of the frantic guitar rhythms. She goes from sweet falsettos to gutsy belts which make the music sound authentic and natural.
For more proof of Mackieís songwriting skills, check out the line in “My Baby Left Me” when she reveals that her man left her for another man. It adds deeper meaning to her plaintive lyrics about sleeping alone, and asking the other men what they see.
“Black Cat” has fun with lyrics about black cats crossing her path and Mackie expands upon that fateful feeling, closing in a torch singer approach. “Booty Call Man” offers a danceable approach to a funny scenario story.
This disc ties together well. The songs vary in dynamics and tempo, giving it a grand and even feel by the end. The band does well in many blues idioms, and Mackie is a clever and resourceful lyricist. Her imagery and storytelling add to the quality of this package.
The musicians are equally important to the singer-songwriter. They create many sonic textures. Just the way the harmonica spirals out over the thumping groove makes “Where Did You Go?” a treat. Guitars and drums are pared down on “Love That Guy” so vocals and harmonica tap dance across those underpinnings. Kleiner does something hip when she adds fills around the beat to “Canít Get Enough Of Loving You” that lets the band rock out. Next, Kleiner forces final song “Gypsy Train” home with a shuffling beat that lives somewhere between blues and country and creates a locomotive feel.
This long shuffle beat closes out the record beautifully, finishes strong, and lets us know The Dirty Mac is traveling onto to faraway places.