Dirty Revival - Dirty Revival (2015)

Dirty Revival
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This year has showcased some of the most promising talent out of Portland, Oregon on SoulTracks.com.  The Rose City unmistakably has one of the U.S.’s most respected music scenes. From introducing jazz vocalist/musician Esperanza Spaulding to national audiences to the eclectic ensemble of Pink Martini, Portland has proven itself a force. Yet, as a whole, their soul and R&B representation has been underwhelming. Changing this calculus, Portland’s urban stylists of late have been showing out as independent labels like Bespeak, through their compilation, Bespeak Love, and Tahirah Memory are now receiving the well-deserved attention befitting their skills.

This year has showcased some of the most promising talent out of Portland, Oregon on SoulTracks.com.  The Rose City unmistakably has one of the U.S.’s most respected music scenes. From introducing jazz vocalist/musician Esperanza Spaulding to national audiences to the eclectic ensemble of Pink Martini, Portland has proven itself a force. Yet, as a whole, their soul and R&B representation has been underwhelming. Changing this calculus, Portland’s urban stylists of late have been showing out as independent labels like Bespeak, through their compilation, Bespeak Love, and Tahirah Memory are now receiving the well-deserved attention befitting their skills.

The latest addition to this trend is an up and coming band, Dirty Revival, which has lit up the Portland’s festival and club circuit. While Dirty Revival is very young in performance years, the band has already released a four-song EP, participated the last two years in PDX Pop Now!, and toured extensively up and down the West Coast. Powered by lead vocalist Sarah Clarke, the septet who formed in 2013, has also shared the stage with George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic and Sir Mix-A-Lot, veteran nods to the growing respect for this band and scene.

Dirty Revival’s vibrant, fascinating mix covers funk, hip-hop and soul, recalling James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Alabama Shakes and much in between. The varied influences immediately catches the ears upon impact. Clarke’s magnetic pipes flow easily with the grooves from Evan "evv'n'flo" Simko, Terry Drysdale, Karl Ludwigsen and Jon Shaw, and the brass section of Jon Clay and Chris Hardin. While the 2014 debut EP was a breeding ground in finding the band’s coherent voice, their 2015 self-titled, full-length centers on why Dirty Revival’s collective strengths are solidified with a soulfully distinctive purpose. Balancing their core group with a string quartet, a percussionist and three background vocalists was an obvious challenge for a small ensemble. Yet, the band was willing to adapt to further their maturation process.

Considering Dirty Revival records without the safety net of studio trickery, most of the arrangements flow effortlessly and their extended investment in producing their self-titled maiden recorded voyage pays off. There are lots of engaging observations on daily life from love in varying degrees to social injustices, along with some wiggle room to jam. The debut single and video, “Dirty Love,” might as well be their official theme presented with a full out brass-injected funk/R&B-hop stew that stirs the party atmosphere, and featuring one of several appearances from Dirty Revival’s in-house rapper, Simko. The non-stop funk/gospel revival, entitled “Make It,” is the ultimate strive to “get a piece of the pie” and settling for nothing less. 

To prove that Dirty Revival is more than just another party-hardy band, much of this project leans on their other musical weapons. “She Can't Wait” transforms into a sixties soul suite complete with an overture, interludes, peaks and valleys from the strings, climaxed by a smooth yet cutting spoken word caution from the woman's point of view. Romantic addictions are addressed on “Lay Me Down,” peppered with a smoky contemporary blues: “I’ve been made blind by the darkness that grows inside my mind.” In a more stripped down, semi-country sprinkled setting, “Sweet Indulgence” is about romance staying the course: “It’s been a rocky road/But I can’t see to leave you alone.” “Lately” starts as a sensual R&B ballad before developing into a feisty response from the lover: “So, I’m going to keep it short like Kevin Hart/so we can see what’s in store for you just like a mini-mart,” and a jazzy saxophone solo to seal the deal. And the in-your-face, throwback soul of “Can’t Breathe” tackles racial tension in a very unapologetic manner: “All of us responsible/Every one of us help to bloody the streets.” 

Despite the only hiccup in “Rain It Will Come,” which is ordinary in concept and execution, there is little to find fault with on Dirty Revival. With this impressive body of work, it is this versatile band that should be recognized as another urban talent to watch for and further elevate the musically rich city of Portland. Solidly Recommended.

By Peggy Oliver 

 
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