By Conor O’Neill
Dusty is the debut LP from Lisburn born, London transplant, Nathan Dusty Miller. His bio reads something like legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt’s: ‘A love for harmonica as a boy grew into an obsession with guitar as a teen. Dusty has played lead guitar, drums and fronted rock, folk and heavy metal bands… it was only years later when an encounter with a jawsy hellhound left Dusty one fingertip down did his path as a slide player begin’.
Quite the intro and sure to pull on the heartstrings of those romantically inclined, but the question is ‘did this ‘jawsy encounter’ lead to a good album?
The LP isn’t due for release January 20th, 2022 but following the release of the first single Pound For Pound at the end of October, Miller sent me through a copy for my listening pleasure.
Slide guitar and country isn’t my forte so I’ll not even try to fool you by namedropping from whatever pops up most frequently on an internet search. But I have been in enough bands, been about musicians and listened to music all my life; therefore I trust my ear rather than judge on genre alone.
Dusty is only eight tracks long, quite short for a debut which, let’s face it, a musician has had a lifetime to write. But maybe it’s the transitions from the above mentioned genres that have led to amount of time in the making of Miller’s debut.
And genre hop he does. From the three minute debut single’s poppy nature, complete with sweet slide and a nice turn on the harmonica to the more rock based track three 21 Gun with its buzz-saw bassline and rasping vocals
There are a few lamenting hymn-like songs on here too. The opener Changed World and Roads Below are nicely paced slow burners that hit the spot. Yet it the change of pace from songs to dong that really makes Dusty stand out.
My personal favourite after 21 Gun is the closing song Heavy Heaven. Its simplicity is the key to what surely must be another single. And Miller does have his eyes on singles, the majority of the eight tracks roll in around the three to three and a half minute length; perfect for the radio.
Radio may be on Dusty’s mind but the album stands true as a start to finish long player. The backing musicians and production are spot on too. I’m uncertain what genre, if pushed, to place this under; I suppose alternative country with an eye on the popular ear is as close as I can get to it.
And the slide guitar? At times haunting, at others piercing little harmonics that sound like samples, but most importantly beautifully melodic. That ‘jawsy hellhound’ could well have done Dusty a massive favour.
There are some lovely touches to this record and with its layered mixes of genres it probably would have been nice if Dusty had maybe pushed the boat out just a little, embraced samples, loops and other little tricks. Saying that, I’m not sure how his London followers’ lean to and if such experimentation would be a step to far away from his target audience.
All in all, eight tunes of varied genres. Well thought out song writing and expertly played musical goodness.
Dusty is released on January 20th, 2022. Do yourself a favour and buy this little country gem.
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