REVIEW: Dirty Honey – ‘Dirty Honey’

Review by Greg Maki

While the COVID-19 pandemic that has held the entire world in its grip since early 2020 hasn’t been good for anyone, it’s hit the music business especially hard, virtually eliminating the concert industry for more than a year and counting. It’s hard to imagine a bigger momentum killer for fledgling rock act Dirty Honey, which stormed onto the national scene in 2019. With its single “When I’m Gone,” the Los Angeles-based band made history, becoming the first unsigned act to reach number one on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Chart. (Follow-up single “Rolling 7s” also reached the top five at rock radio.)

After growing throughout the year and winning over large numbers of fans as the opener on the Alter Bridge/Skillet tour in late 2019, Dirty Honey went out on its first headliner in early 2020. Then the world shut down. A planned trip to Australia to record a full-length debut—the band only had a six-song EP to its name at this point—obviously was scratched, and the quartet—singer Marc LaBelle, guitarist John Notto, bassist Justin Smolian and drummer Corey Coverstone—ended up tracking in L.A. with producer Nick DiDia (Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam) beamed in from Down Under via the wonders of modern technology. One can’t help but wonder if these unusual conditions contributed to the end product containing only eight songs—just two more than the EP, for those keeping score at home.

The good news for Dirty Honey is that starting with lead single/album opener “California Dreamin’” and continuing through the bluesy closer “Another Last Time,” it should have no trouble picking up where it left off pre-pandemic. The basic formula is unchanged from the earlier EP, mixing equal parts ‘70s and ‘80s rock for a grooving good time. Think early Aerosmith meets Guns N’ Roses without the street-tough, vitriolic attitude of the latter. On record, it can come across as deceptively simple at times—the same can be said for a lot of great rock music, so don’t read that as an insult—and it tends to sound better the louder it’s played. There’s a timeless quality to this album—it could have come out at any time in the past half century and sounded completely natural—though surprisingly few bands are playing anything like it in 2021.

Now, let’s get this pandemic taken care of so Dirty Honey can return to its natural habitat: the stage.

Rating: 8/10

Independent release – April 23, 2021

Buy “Dirty Honey”
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