MicControl Album Review: "Dirt and Water"

From http://miccontrol.com June 30, 2009 by Jon     (return to Reviews)

I found these guys on twitter a few days ago, and to be honest, my first opinion of them was that their music was kind of empty. But after giving them more time, I have found that there is more to it than what I originally thought, which was just empty music with wordy lyrics.

Actually, I have found that I really seemed to enjoy The Heartsleeves brand of roots/ funk/ neo-soul. Similar to the sound produced when
Keller Williams and The String Cheese Incident got together for Breathe, this music is a loose and heavily groove oriented. What really gives this album an enjoyable sound is the roots aspect of the music. There is a laid back feeling on Dirt and Water- the calypso inflused guitar, bouncy, funk bass lines, the backing horn accompaniments, the bright vocals that shine only even brighter when the harmonies are applied to the chorus lines. Understand though, that laid back doesn't mean slow or boring, in fact there is a definite upbeat excitement that is heard through this music.

As musicians, these guys all seem to fit somewhere in between the lines of good and really good. I wouldn't say they are quite at the level of being excellent musicians- at times there are sloppy rhythms, and the dynamics could use a little work. But there is also the idea of a groove- the tightness, the chemistry and the way they can play of each other. This is where the group seems to shine. The bass seems to be consistently tight with the drums, always finding a way to intricately intertwine in and out of the drum sections. The guitar is competent, never really doing much more than plucking out some chords or playing upstroke style guitar, but this isn't a bad thing. Actually, I think any more than that would sound a little forced. Many times in roots music, the guitar does play a smaller part in the overall bigger picture of the music. The sax is stellar- this sounds far and above any other instrument used in the group. There is always some interesting line that is being played, the dynamics are always spot on, and the solos are fantastic. And, as mentioned earlier, the vocals are extremely well done. They are bright, strong, and are used in interesting rhythmic ways, which at times almost gives the verses a certain rapped feel, as opposed to a sung feeling. It is this variation that keeps the music feeling fresh throughout the album.