Chicago, as a city, is so steeped in blues history that I sometimes don’t understand why new blues bands even bother. It’s damn near impossible to live up to some of the legends. Even being great in this city means you fall short. Yet time and time again, the city delivers young kids dabbling in the genre made famous here by Muddy Watters and countless others.
The newest group to come to my attention is The Dirty Rooks, who put out the album Sugar Mama last year. 2010 was a good year for me blues-wise. I was introduced to The Congregation and their EP Not For Sleepin’, which made my top ten list of local releases last year, edging out fellow bluesman Buddy Guy’s album Living Proof. I also saw Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears opening for electronic dance group Passion Pit. Sugar Mama isn’t as good as any of those mentioned, but it isn’t too far behind them.
Listening to the record, I don’t feel like things really kick in to high gear until track 5, “Old Mill Creek.” On this song things go from decent to kickin’ ass in no time at all. The guitar work, especially, shines here. Mike Bailey puts together a great solo, and it’s no surprise that this is the lone song where Mike is credited as the lead songwriter.
The songs that come before all fall out of the memory about thirty seconds into that one, but everything that follows is pretty good. There are some really nice backing vocals by Tawny Newsome and Bethany Thomas on a couple songs, and the rocking gets harder and harder throughout.
All songs other than “Old Mill Creek” are credited to Grant Gholson and The Dirty Rooks, which I take to mean that he is the main lyricist. He does a good job for the most part crafting songs that stay true to the genre. The blues is a hard style to write lyrics for, because almost everything has been used already. I know I tried my hand at writing some blues songs a long time ago, and I found it very difficult.
Overall, I think this is a fun group that would be great to see live. There’s great guitars, good vocals, and the swagger necessary to pull the whole thing off. The Dirty Rooks have shows coming up May 20th at Bird’s Nest Bar here in Chicago, May 30th at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine, and August 5th at The Brauerhause in Lombard. If you’re free on those nights, it’d be worth checking out. If not, you can pick up their record, Sugar Mama here.