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 Post subject: Red Dirt - self titled 1970
PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:27 pm 
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Joined: Sat Dec 04, 2010 7:42 pm
Posts: 192
Location: North London, UK (was NZ till 2009)

Red Dirt’s eponymous album is one of the few super-rarities which deserves at least some of its mythical status and astronomical price tag. If brash, dirty blues riffs and gruff vocals are some of your favourite things about hard rock you certainly won’t be disappointed.

The band originated in East Yorkshire. After meeting in Bridlington, drummer Steve Jackson invited guitarist Steve Howden to form a band. Bridlington resident and Steve’s friend Kenny Giles joined on bass guitar, and Steve’s musical collaborator Dave Richardson came on board for vocals. Dave had previously played with Mick Ronson (David Bowie’s band and others) and Michael Chapman (solo singer-guitarist on the Harvest label).

Blues rock was their focus. Dave was into Captain Beefheart in particular, and you can clearly hear that in his approach, but they were determined to be an original band with no covers. The album is a satisfying mix of nihilistic harmonica-laced heavy rockers and authentic slide guitar blues. They quickly met with approval on the live circuit, one high point was a slot with Free at Manchester University.

In a Record Collector magazine interview, guitarist Steve Howden said “The band signed with Morgan Studios, after just eighteen months of being together and playing. As far as promotion goes, there was nothing like that really back then. It was your record, you deal with it, your responsibility and you figure it out”. At ages of around 20, most of the band was still green and the familiar story of under-promotion and label indifference buried another great British ‘70s rock album.

The LP opens with one of its more subdued tracks, the acoustic folk-tinged “Memories”. This only hints at the angst to come but the maudlin tone and subject matter sets the scene perfectly.

“Death Letter” comes in next and vocalist Dave Richardson changes gear abruptly into his raging, ragged blues roar, one of the frequent delights of the record. The band follows his queues, bashing it out in a monolithic and straightforward manner, with the same direct, no-nonsense attitude and raw punk-like immediacy that permeates much of the album. If you are familiar with the similarly obscure English bands Crushed Butler or Stack Waddy, you’ll be right at home. For the following “Problems”, the rest of the band joins Dave for the vocals and a swinging group effort brings a bit of elevating camaraderie to the mix.

“Song For Pauline” changes tack again, taking you back to the blues delta with gorgeous slide guitar from Steve Howden. Dave becomes possessed with the spirit of the old masters, the gruffness is replaced with the lingering sadness that defines the blues.

“Ten Seconds To Go” is straight back into the jarring heaviness of Death Letter. This is a seriously pissed-off sounding Free, minus the pop hooks. Dave spews a bile-filled condemnation of those that waste your time with empty promises while the band again concentrates on hammering a huge riff into your soul.

Further down the line “Summer Madness Laced With Newbald Gold” sings of drug disillusionment, maybe ‘Newbald Gold’ was a locally-sourced concoction of some kind, and Brain Worker descends into another monstrous blues grind, dragging the murky waters of death and self-loathing. The album ends on a lament of lost love with the picked acoustic blues of “I’ve Been Down So Long”.

Somewhat prophetically, the alternately angry and mellon collie nature of the album was justified. The songs of anger, resent and wrong-doing were mirrored by the band’s anti-climactic experiences, but the positive that those four young guys left us is this excellent and unique heavy album that will continue to be remembered by those that appreciate its qualities.

We end with some more of Steve Howden’s words, “I do think it’s really cool that it is worth so much, but it’s hard to understand that it’s so valuable and I’m never going to get any money out of it. I signed my life away for five years for nothing. I lost my money-earning job for that band. To find people are making money off something I got nothing for forty years ago is kind of a pisser. I have an original copy – it’s a white label and I didn’t get it at the time because I was broke – I couldn’t afford it! As tempting as the money is now, I wouldn’t sell it as it’s the only material thing I have left of the band”.
© Richard Sheppard /

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