After moving to Los Angeles from Stockton, CA, Dirk Hamilton attracted the attention of Steely Dan producer Gary Katz, who in turn helped him sign a deal with ABC Records. The result, the Katz-produced You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right, is a quirky if occasionally misguided work, with moments of brilliance. Katz brought in a host of session pros, including Chuck Rainey, Elliott Randall, and Jeff Porcaro -- all of whom had previously worked with him on various Steely Dan projects -- to flesh out Hamilton's idiosyncratic, acoustic-based tunes. And while these great players are perfect for Steely Dan's sophisticated pop/rock, they don't really do much for the material here. Hamilton sounds loose and playful throughout, while the backing seems somewhat flat and lifeless. Still, what makes You Can Sing truly worthwhile, and distinguishes it from the other singer/songwriter recordings bombarding the industry at the time, is masterful songwriting like the terrific "She Don't Squash Bugs," the detailed melancholy of "Wasn't That One Night Good," and the opening track, "The Sweet Forever." It would take Hamilton a couple of years to find the perfect setting for his songs but, nonetheless, his sharp wit, keen insight, and unique style are evident throughout You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right.
You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right Review
by Brett Hartenbach