The Dirty Callahans are Oslo-based, but have their roots from Vestby north of Moss in Norway. Budding started already towards the end of last century, when Kjetil age 12 played with Morten.
The band The Dirty Callahans was founded in 2001, and consisted at the time besides Kjetil Andresen on vocals and Morten Løw on guitar, of Peder Wandem on guitar and Fredrik Wandem on bass, and drummer Lars Fjell. In 2003 The Dirty Callahans had a breakthrough after they got the chance to perform at the Norwegian Wood Festival, and the record debut came in 2004.
Their debut album Fucked Up and Standing was a hard-hitting album. Pretty hard rock, which also had some punk-inspired elements. Follow-up album Stepping on Toes had certainly a kinship with their debut album, but it was still a clear trend with more width in the musical expression. It also had, after all, been five years since the first album, and especially the vocals of Kjetil has an interesting development.
Never get Ahead
About a year ago Tor Ingar Barkerud took over bass playing. And today they launchedtheir third album - Never Get Ahead . And this time it's in my ears even clearer development of their second album than there was between the first two albums.
It is quite clearly a much greater range of musical expression. We're talking of course still about hard-hitting rock, but while we find on this third album, a great exchange between the massive and compact sound image and a more refined music. It is always difficult to find precise references to bands who have gradually developed a clear own musical identity, and that is the situation with The Dirty Callahans.
For some inexplicable reason it pops up occasionally reminiscent of Mountain from the early 70s, and Thin Lizzy from later 70s. And it's not easy to explain these associations, for both of the aforementioned bands had a quite different expression and musical style, and with a consistently far more transparent sound. But what they had in common with The Dirty Callahans is a distinct singer, which is a very important part of the musical identity. For Kjetil Andresen has during the 11 years it has gone from debut album evolved to become an excellent singer. And, not least important, a singer with strong personal musical character.
The band is or is primarily characterized by being a very strong craft, which delivers massive hard-hitting rock with slightly dirty sound when it is required, and that also excels in more intricate arrangements and riffs. But like the debut album of "Ugler i Mosen" which I reviewed earlier this year, also The Dirty Callahans is a band that is characterized by excellent and precise interplay more than virtuosic solos.
In my notes from one of the earliest listening rounds, I wrote that opening track is not among my favorites. But what has happened in the meantime is that just this track Stutter has grown on me and become a real treat. This does not prevent the two consecutive songs still being among the very best on the album in my ears. We are talking about the title track Never Get Ahead and How Good . One of the reasons why these two are among my favorites is that they are representatives of tunes where sophistication dominates more than massive gravity. And just the title track is one of many examples where Kjetil`s vocals are outstanding.
On track no. 2 on the B-side we find the tune What Goes Wild, and here we find a new element in the sound. Didirik Lund guested with an organ with B3-ish sound, and it gives a great dimension to the tune. On the next track.
This time, this gang sought to publish an LP, and it is the only physical media published. The music is also available as digital downloads.
This is a trend we have seen lately, and perhaps especially with artists with a moderate turnover. There is a clear confirmation of what we have known for many years now - the CD has the future in the past.
Never Get Ahead is indeed a really elaborate specimen of the species, and the lack of written documentation I trust my intuition that tells me that this is 180 gram vinyl. The packaging is otherwise in the form of a single page cover, and with a good design that suits the music. The only improvement I could wish is even more information and documentation.
The sound on the LP is good, and those who have a Pickup with good tracking ability, can benefit from it on the massive heavy parties. These sets relatively high standards of PU for the nuances in the sound to be let through the guitar carpet with slightly dirty sound.
Playback during the review has been performed with Grado Reference Blue 1 and a Ortofon 2M Bronze, mounted on a Thorens TD160 MK2 B.
The Dirty Callahans took its name inspired by Dirty Harry, but they are not as Dirty as rumor or name would like to make us believe. For me it's all good news, because I'm in a phase of life where there are typically other parameters in music which matters even more. Since I have a special eye for verbal contradictions, I am tempted to call the music genre for soft hardrock.
And who cares anyway. What is important is that The Dirty Callahans is a bunch of great musicians, who just now are releasing a very nice vinyl album with good music. A music that is moving, and that grows every time you listen to it. In my book this is the proof of quality.
Read more about The Dirty Callahans
Never Get Ahead is published by Lunde Records, and distributed by Naxos.
Video of the opening track Stutter: