Them Dirty Dimes – In Gold We Trust: Album Review

The authentic sound of 1930s Chicago, via Groningen, NL on the debut album from Them Dirty Dimes.

Release Date:  12th March 2021

Label: Own Release

Formats: CD / Vinyl / Limited Edition Gold Vinyl

You won’t have heard of Then Dirty Dimes before, but, on the evidence of their debut album, In Gold We Trust, I’ve no doubt that you will.  They’re a band whose music is laced with fun and good humour, and music guaranteed to ignite an audience and to set entire festival fields a-hopping, shimmying and mambo-ing. 

For those interested in the details, they’re a five-piece band from Groningen, Netherlands with a line-up that comprises Gijs de Groot (guitar and vocals), Johan Stolk (guitar and the principal songwriter), Joas Zuur (trumpet), Anne de Vries (bass) and Wessel de Vries (drums) and, to fill out the sound on their album, they’ve also enlisted the help of a number of very talented guests including Heta Salkolahti on violin, Harmen Ridderbos on piano, Koen Schouten on sax, Amo Bakker on sousaphone and, perhaps most intriguingly, Annette Scholten on singing saw.  And if that lot whets your appetite, then you won’t be disappointed.

The band bill themselves as an indie/folk/Americana band, but the music on In Gold We Trust shows that they’re capable of much more than even that broad description implies.  Indeed, they’ve deliberately aimed at a recreation of the jazz sounds that gained a foothold during the California goldrush of the 1850s and blossomed to become the defining sound of prohibition America, and that’s an aim that they’ve met with tunes to spare. 

As if to underline their intentions, the band have referenced the likes of Pokey LaFarge, Meschiya Lake and CW Stoneking as principal influences and, if you’re familiar with the music of any of those, then you’ll begin to get an idea of what In Gold We Trust is all about, but even then, you’ll be surprised by how far Them Dirty Dimes have managed to stretch their point.  At their most extreme, they achieve the distinct Gypsy-punk flavour of Gogol Bordello, they can groove like The Blueflames at their Flamingo peak and they can even emulate the Texas Swing of Asleep at the Wheel when they put their minds to it.

The album is a pleasure, from beginning to end, and gets off to a great start with the raucous Gypsy Jazz of the title track.  Jake Walk Shuffle (the title is a reference to the condition that resulted from the intake of rather too much pharmaceutical alcohol during the days of prohibition) takes us into western swing territory before Keep Diggin’ goes back in time to the days of the goldrush – a feast of banjo, violin and handclaps which gets more urgent and punkier as the song progresses.

Bed and The Bottle Blues is an early highlight.  It’s a soft jazzy piece, all brushed drums, plucked bass and topped off with some delightful tenor sax.  For Morning Hour, the sound is early 60s rhythm and blues – a dancefloor filler that leaves the listener breathless and drooling for more.

The Day I Met Capone is (allegedly) a true story, told from the viewpoint of Fats Waller who, it is said, was kidnapped by the notorious gangster and forced/enticed (good Champagne and female comfort were both apparently part of the deal) to play for three days running to help Al celebrate his birthday.  The lyrics are fantastic – “Didn’t mean to take that limousine, but it’s so hard to argue with a sub-machine” is a delightful example – and Harmen Ridderbos’s sublime piano adds a delicious layer of icing.

Bald and Alone is another gem. It’s the song that probably most effectively captures that authentic 1930s Chicago feel, with its shuffling drums, discrete guitar and tootling horns and, again, the lyrics are imaginative and entertaining.  The chorus, “Why don’t you come knocking again when I’m bald and alone, I ain’t got no time now, ain’t got no dough.  Don’t need your lovin’ ‘till I’m old” typifies the bright humour and bouncy feel of the whole album.  From there the mood changes to the lush, bluesy croon of From Blue To Black, a song that recalls Al Bowley with its fine, jazzy, electric guitar parts and some wonderful trumpet touches.

Interlude is a short slice of Gypsy violin, which introduces the Mariachi trumpet that becomes a central feature of the raucous Fat Chance, before Strange Sound, another of the album’s real highlights introduces us to the engaging combination of singing saw and sousaphone.  The penultimate track, Baby In Babylon, is described with typical Them Dirty Dimes humour as an anti-alt-country numberIn fact, it’s an enjoyable, tongue-in-cheek memoir of a well-travelled, handsome stranger’s failure to find romance, to the accompaniment of some superb Nashville guitar licks.

The closing track, Passing By, is introduced by the wonderful clarinet of guest Bert Brandsma.  The song is a light-hearted look at mortality, dressed in an exquisite gown of Dixieland jazz. A delightful end to an extremely enjoyable and entertaining album.  In Gold We Trust is an album that manages to combine the familiar and the innovative and to package the whole concept in great humour and exemplary musicianship.  This really is one that shouldn’t be missed!

Listen to Bed and Bottle Blues – a track from the album – here:

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