The Black Dirt Sessions, Deer Tick's third full studio album, combines the easy balladry and boozy rock tunes of the band’s prior two releases, but does away with the old-timey blues and country influences. The new sound of the group, which includes new member Ian O'Neil of Titus Andronicus on guitar, is contemporary and sincere. Vocalist John McCauley, the chief songwriter of the group, seems to have found his own distinct voice and is comfortable reeling back and singing quietly, harnessing his muscular, grainy timbre into a sweet instrument. The first half of the album never breaks a sweat, concentrating solely on stripped-down, melancholy ballads. Side two breaks away from the acoustic aspects, and kicks up a laid-back Nashville groove with honky tonk piano, Stonesy guitar riffs, and classic Americana harmonies. McCauley sounds liberated, calling up ‘70s hooks and harmonies that feel classic without being overtly retro. For The Black Dirt Sessions, the sepia tones are faded and less distracting. Songs written to sound like old pub standards helped to gain the group attention, but these heartfelt tunes gleam with McCauley's individuality.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover