Album Review – Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters – ‘Midwest Heart/Southern Blues’

Every genre of music has elements that help differentiate these genres from each other. When discussing country music, the biggest element that defines it is that it’s raw, and real. That’s something we’ve lost on the radio but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist somewhere out there. Once you reach out you’ll be sure to find plenty of musicians making music from the heart.

Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters don’t define themselves as “country” necessarily, nor does their sound really scream country first and foremost. The Kentucky based band defines themselves as Americana, which as you may know is pretty much the refuge for real country music as well as other genres of music.

This isn’t “real country music”, and I don’t think I’m going to bellyache because of it. Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters most certainly have the “real” factor to them, more so than any other band I’ve covered so far this year.

Unfortunately I’m late to the party on the band’s latest album, Midwest Heart/Southern Blues, and therefore anything I have to say about it has already been said better by others out there. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an album that deserves to be overlooked. Midwest Heart/Southern Blues is a very dirty record, one that hits upon classic southern rock, blues, and country. While the tales are dark, the instrumentation lifts the mood, even becoming “fun” in some spots. At its core it’s simply gritty country blues that is very different from most albums this year.

Midwest Heart/Southern Blues is an album for the working man. The band doesn’t just say that they understand the plights of small towns or the people within them, they show that they understand through ten well crafted songs. They frame themselves with the working man instead of talking down to him (or her).
Really, it doesn’t take much to say what makes this album so special. That’s not a knock mind you, it’s actually a compliment to the cohesive nature of this album as well as a good sign of a band that knows their sound. “My True Love” starts off with some Johnny Cash guitar riffs and just keeps rolling on from there.

Mainstream country music may glorify small town life as one big endless party, but it’s far from it, and you don’t even need to live in one to at least see it. “Just My Job” is an ode to the working man, but it’s one that chronicles the dirty jobs one has to do sometime just to put food on the table. Meanwhile, “Pills, Jesus, and War” and “Ever Since You Left Town” continue to chronicle the hardships of small town life as well as take a look at the people who got away, and how the town has only gotten worse since they left.

Sure, there’s moments like “Rhythm Of The Train” where the narrator and his lover blow off a little steam, but it’s only because they worked so hard to get to that break. “Atheist Wedding” is another less serious one that is arguably a highlight with the gritty harmonica play all throughout. “Centrailia” is also arguably a lighter moment with it’s fast, playful locomotive rhythm but the lyrical content of heartbreak is anything but smiles.

My criticism of this album is admittedly a weird one, mostly because there’s not necessarily anything on this album that hurts its quality. But you see, as gritty as this album can get I feel like there’s moments that could have even gone darker. Tracks like “Athesist Wedding” and “The Poet, The Priest, and Me” work so damn well because they have defining instrumental moments such as the harmonica in the former and the fantastic guitar melody in the latter, but a track like “Ever Since You Left That Town” just doesn’t have the punch that it should to me.

That’s not to say that it drags the overall quality of Midwest Heart/Southern Blues down however, since this is truly a great album. It really is the complete package in terms of fantastic songwriting, great vocals, and excellent instrumentation. The music you hear on country radio may talk about small town life in a different fashion, but Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters aren’t afraid to cut through the bullshit and tell it like it is.

Best Tracks: “The Poet, The Priest, and Me”, “Just My Job”, “Pills, Jesus, and War”

(8/10)

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