Stan Ridgway's lyrical voice is every bit as distinctive as the way he sings, and that's saying something -- the unmistakably dry but rubbery Southwestern twang of Ridgway's voice is the perfect instrument for his tales of lost souls and puzzled losers, and his songs chart a path that suggests a midway point between aural film noir and Ennio Morricone's spaghetti Western scores. A clearly underrated talent, Ridgway's post-Wall 0f Voodoo solo work has never attracted the audience it deserved (partly due to a long string of bad luck with record companies both large and small), but anyone who doubts the strength of the music he's been making since the late '80s only needs to give a listen to Holiday in Dirt, a collection of B-sides, rare tracks, and outtakes that have been gathering dust in Ridgway's closet. While odds-and-ends compilations like this are usually made up of stuff that didn't make the cut because it wasn't up to snuff, that's not the case with Holiday in Dirt -- as a matter of fact, this is as strong a set as anything Ridgway has released since Mosquitos in 1989. Whether he's writing about teenage guitar manglers ("Garage Band '69"), low-level mob leg-breakers ("Bing Can't Walk"), or a washed-up long-in-the-tooth actress ("Beloved Movie Star"), Ridgway makes his characters human and worthy of compassion even at their most ugly and pathetic, and the dry Southwestern clatter of the music is both bracing and the perfect fit. And even though these tracks were assembled from material recorded over the space of a dozen years, these 12 tunes (one appearing in two versions) fit together beautifully, which says a lot about the consistency of Ridgeway's vision. While Stan Ridgeway already has a strong career overview compilation (The Best of Stan Ridgway: Songs That Made This Country Great), Holiday in Dirt shows that he's left more than a few gems behind as well, and this album is a treat for fans and not a bad introduction to his body of work.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming