Fee Fi Fo… Woah… Dogs D’amour have existed in various line-ups since the early 1980’s, but this current group featuring Gaz Pennick (guitar), Matty James Cassidy (bass), and Simon Hanson (drums) has been together for at least the last 7 years, which I believe is the longest active continuous streak of a line-up over all these years. This has allowed these Dogs to really form their own identity and explore some new musical territories on the new full-length ‘Tree Bridge Cross.’ On ‘In Vino Veritas,’ the band showed that they could channel the bluesy rock n roll brilliance of the late 80’s and early 90’s on songs like ‘Bottle of Red’ and ‘I Don’t Love Anyone.’ They also channeled a darker edge on a brilliant song like ‘Black Confetti’ and a classy embellishments on the gorgeous title track. The band followed up with another release of brand new material in the terrific ‘Jack O’Byte Bluesey Vol. 1’ where they pursued a darker bluesy direction. Now, after a lengthy delay due to issues getting vinyl pressed, Dogs D’amour have returned with a great album that channels from the spirit of the past at times but firmly plants itself in some new musical directions.
Many of our favorite songs and albums over the years have the gift of nostalgia and memories associated to those times that provide stories of our histories and who we are. I believe it is only natural that those songs take on deeper meaning over time as our youth moves further away than we would like. Why do I mention this? This album feels like bringing those memories together as people meeting in the darkness of a dive bar where new memories are formed to continue the journey forward. Starting off with the title track, the electric guitar gives way to a spoken verse by Tyla and introduces a song that I cannot really compare to any in the band’s background. The driving beat by Simon Hanson allowing everything to work around it, whether it is the tasty piano touches, the electric guitar, and the vocal hooks. If anyone remembers the Tyla song ‘Declaration,’ this has a similar vocal delivery but with a full band backing. The ending solo piano note is the perfect closing touch. ‘Journey to the Centre of the Soul’ has been one of the pre-release singles and showcases the depth of this release. I hesitate to use the words mature or grown up as some may take that in a negative sense. Self-reflective might be a good description lyrically. The warmness in the music is welcoming and feels like the greeting of an old friend. The rhythm can create a feeling like falling if you close your eyes and focus on it.
The band transition to the more acoustic based rock of ‘Steal Your Love Away’ with some extra vocals by Quireboys singer Spike (like it or not Griff). I can imagine a full room singing along to this one with a glass in one hand and the other one in the air helping bellow out the chorus in a show of solidarity with everyone in the room. ‘God Only Knows’ takes things in a heavier direction with awesome vocals preaching over some electrifying guitar. The closing mantra of ‘god bless ya’ winding things down and serving as the only initial vocal hook across the song. Repeated listens have since revealed me singing along across the entire song, but it is very subtle in its contagiousness. ‘Angel Lane’ closes out side one with a noisy semi-ballad featuring a big chorus that would not have been out of place on ‘More Unchartered Heights of Disgrace.’
Kicking off side two, rocker ‘Buried Alive’ sounds better to me as a full song than the sample clip did when the album was originally announced. While it is my least favorite on the album, it has grown on me with each listen. This is another one where the piano in the mix adds a great element to the song. For those that spring for the 2 CD version, there are acoustic versions of nine of the songs, and I prefer the acoustic bluesy version of this one. Let’s see if this becomes a grower over time. ‘Raining Fire’ meanwhile has been a favorite since an extended version of the song was offered a couple years ago. Tyla opens with a spoken word piece with the song featuring the Dogs at their heaviest with a killer rhythm and chorus. I cannot listen to this song at a loud enough volume. Pennick and Tyla supply great guitar work throughout the song while Hanson and Cassidy supply the thundering rhythm. ‘Powder Dry’ should be familiar to most as the featured single prior to the album’s release. This is another mostly full band acoustic treat with some great piano work throughout the song. Strong backing vocals adding depths to the song and the mix. The electric guitar solo cuts brilliantly through the mix. Cassidy’s bass work gets to stand out and shine in the mix on ‘Moth to the Flame.’ This is another one that finds the Dogs learning new tricks and, to borrow an old phrase from Tyla’s past, perhaps best described as ‘a soft song for hard people.’ Closing the album is the freaking beautiful ‘Ghosts.’ Musically and lyrically, this is a classic on arrival as it is just Tyla on acoustic and vocals with Scotty on piano. I do not believe anyone else is playing on this one. My favorite Dogs album closer has always been ’She Put It in Here Arm,’ but this one has already transcended it. Tyla’s vocals are perhaps the best they have ever been on this one.
Another brilliant album for these Dogs who continue to showcase new wrinkles and refuse to live in the past. Lyrically, I reckon I speak for many of us who have been fans since the beginning who can relate to the more self-reflective thoughts here than thinking that we can still fall in love if we fell ‘down the stairs into the arms of a girl who really cared.’ Hopefully, these songs find their way in front of new listeners who can appreciate great rock n roll played from the heart.
Author: Gerald Stansbury