Dirt Reynolds Gets Down and Dirty with His Southern Sass on ‘Scalawag’

Dirt Reynolds | Scalawag | (independent)
Three and a half out of Five stars

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Chris Watts, A.K.A. Dirt Reynolds, is a true son of the South and all that singular identity implies. With his blue-collar persona and gritty sounding delivery, he comes across as a no-nonsense individual who tells the truth and owns up to the consequences and concerns. He inhabits these songs and sings them with the harsh determination they deserve. That’s especially significant considering the fact that he has the scars to prove it. According to his bio, he was once stabbed in a bar fight and also suffered a gunshot wound while serving in the Louisiana National Guard during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The songs on this, his powerful debut album, reflect a tenacious attitude borne by strife and circumstance. The relentless boogie beat given “The Day David Duke Came to Destrehan rekindles the hate-fueled legacy of purely blind bigotry that remains a sad part of the southern legacy. “Lee County” summons up a prerequisite amount of rough-hewn determination, bringing to mind any number of other good ole’ boys — Jason Isbell, the Drive By Truckers and, going back even further, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet, among them. So too, “Cenla” and “The Gods Own Truth” come across as a pair of frenzied rockers that serve the cause with all the conviction needed. “I’ll never be Bob Dylan and you know rock and roll never dies,” Watts/Reynolds insists on the latter, a fine mixture of clarity and confession.

Of course, true country/rock hybrid wouldn’t be complete without at least one homage to the curse of drink and its crushing after-effect on any romantic intent. Here, the song “Empty Beds, Empty Bottles” provides the ideal ode to shedding one’s tears in a beer, with its title alone being the ultimate tell-all. With a shimmering pedal steel guitar and a driving rhythm, the singer confesses his sins while owing up to a wrecked relationship the booze has left in its wake. On the other hand, “American Kind” provides the kind of anthemic surge that would make Tom Petty proud, an ode to homegrown pride that leaves no doubt as to the source of Reynolds’ resilience.

There are plenty of other first hand narratives as well, from the forlorn, rough-hewn reflection of “Fireworks Over Buhlow,” “Homecoming Show” and “I Know What It Means” to the searing come-on of “Basin Lounge.” Taken in tandem, it all adds up to one sharp-tongued Scalawag and a damned impressive one at that.

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