Dutch Pink has been sculpting its baroque, barroom stomp sound since 2004, but it wasn't clear until 2007's Six Little Songs for Ourselves, a brief series of sonnets set to disconcerting melodies, what the band was capable of. More than anything, however, the EP was proof this Detroit trio could come out to play from under the cloud of Tom Waits. The band's latest, Times New Roman, is its most complete record yet. Written in the spring of 2008 and recorded with Dan Currie at "The Bunker," the 10-song set is rich in layers, with singer and lyricist Dustin Leslie's voice up front, his callous pronunciations cutting in clarity.
Wistful stanzas bounce between sparsely plucked chords on the opening title track, transforming into eclectic crashes over which Leslie spits his story. It's hopscotch and hangovers/ capricious cowards and barstool poets/ with the Byzantium blues at best/ are undertaken. This is all nighttime music, ballads for lit-fan drunkards with broken hearts, wild streaks, and wanderlust. "Corn Palace Heirs," opens with jangly piano sustained in voodoo mood. It's a ghostly narrative that tells of danger and sex, almost like a grimier take on the Traveling Wilburys' "Tweeter and the Monkey Man," substituting drugs, cops and junkies for Midwestern vixens, whiskey and nightmares. We travel from Tuscaloosa to Baton Rouge, from truck stops to fairs and Aesop's butcher.
The scarcity of "Jacquelyn," which sounds very impromptu, has a gem of lyric in You always be jaded/ I'll always be broke/ I don't mind if you don't. But it's a muddy dredge to the bitter end. Following up with "My Kind of Loser," the band shows that, at heart, they're a beautiful blues band. Slow and sweet, Leslie pushed his broken soul out as best he can. And he can. "Byzantine Blues" sees the band step back into the Detroit garage. Full of unruly swagger, this straight shot of rock 'n' roll sounds like it's meant to be heard live. "Dollhouse, MO" shows a different side of the Dutch Pink blues, the Screamin' Jay Hawkins thing.
Dutch Pink's record release show is 9 p.m., June 24, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; themagicbag.com; $7. Free album download for all in attendance, and a limited edition vinyl release will be available. The Juliets and Faux Paws support.
Travis R. Wright is culture and arts editor of Metro Times. Write to Travis R. Wright at metrotimes.com.