For Americans, a “dirty spliff” is a marijuana joint mixed with tobacco; for Europeans it could be a marijuana joint dropped in a puddle, as tobacco is standard operating procedure. For fans of the dirty blues, Dirty Spliff Blues is the eighth album by Indiana band Left Lane Cruiser (previous releases include Bring Yo’ Ass to the Table and Junkyard Speed Ball).
In the past Left Lane Cruiser have acknowledged their debt to North Mississippi Hill country blues musicians, and the rough and ready breed of music being farmed out of the Fat Possum records factory. Fat Possum succeeded on the basis of being innovators, avoiding the inauthentic replication of “old” blues when out of step with the times. Wisely, Left Lane Cruiser also take a modernist approach despite previous categorizations of “hillbilly rock” or “delta swamp” party music. You could also consider this album as “dirty blues”, not just because of some risqué content, but also because it’s loud and distorted. Opener, “Tres Borrachos”, has a monster riff one notch up from ZZ Top, and the band sound like serious bad-asses. The following blues shuffle, “Elephant Stomp”, seems gentile in comparison, but still contains some tough licks and attitude.
The dissolute “Whitebread n Beans” starts with a dragging drum pattern which continues throughout, creating a messed-up and loose environment for the band to show off their prowess. Things ramp up even further in “Tangled Up in Bush” as Frederick “Joe” Evans IV yelps “I seek and destroy”, and a wiry guitar scratches out a solo. “Heavy Honey” with its’ deliciously big booty (a quote from the lyrics, not the reviewer) is certainly politically incorrect, and that indeed is probably the point. Raucous and fun, turn it up to scare your neighbours. Then, as billed, the title track sets out a preference for smoking marijuana straight with no additives, on the basis of the impassioned refrain that we “can’t see through the brown”.
The second half of the album continually and persistently ratchets up in intensity, an impressive feat in itself as the first half was no slouch. “Cutting Trees” has a great central guitar riff and is a heavy head-banger’s delight. In other words, it’s far from subtle. “All Damn Day” continues in this manner, and approximately suggests that the object of the singer’s desire should uncover her booty (yes, again with the booty) to bring peace in the Middle East. It’s an admirable sentiment, but nonetheless this proposed solution seems unlikely to resolve matters. “Skateboard Blues” is drenched in low-fi interference, but surprisingly the album finishes in a (comparatively) austere tone with “She Don’t Care”, at times sounding like the airbrushed Aerosmith. Despite being a nihilist, the girl sounds kind of crazed, fitting for an album which revels in its’ own glorious degeneracy.