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Issue: May 2009

Home-Cooked Dysfunction

Independent Royalty (Independent)
Slithering Beast

Slithering Beast is the country-fried dysfunctional love child of Southern Indiana native Nick Dittmeier, and is a band primarily driven by his vision and talents like a drunken truck driver with a gun rack and an estranged wife.

This 10-song collection, the band's third, is awash with layers of guitars, harmonica, piano, pedal steel, mandolin, trumpet and even a glockenspiel. Dittmeier's nasally voice lingers just under the surface of the thick arrangements with a tinny restraint, a trick that mostly works especially when he's kicking out tales of isolation like "The worst part is/I'm gonna do it on my own" from the song "Diesel Lungs." There are times, however, when one wishes for more of a burst in the lead vocals, as they tend to take a back seat to everything else that is going on in the mixes.

Dittmeier's early tunes were typically tales wrought with dysfunction and debauchery, redneck tales of a lifestyle with which many of us aren't entirely familiar. These songs wear shinier musical clothes, but are still mostly bleak.

For instance, "Getting on the Bus" is a foot-stomping country rocker vignette about a family without transportation. Or, for that matter, hope. And "Honestly" is a country ballad that describes a difficult long-distance relationship in which the narrator confesses "I couldn't leave you if I tried/I can't lie to you if I look you in the eye."

This is certainly a step forward in the songwriting, and the early promise Slithering Beast showed in terms of incorporating melodic hooks seems to be creeping back into the fold. Since we're being honest here, that's really a must for this kind of music it needs something emotive. Likewise, the layered backing vocals often add an almost choir-like quality, like in "Deconstructed Man," a song that has been in the band's repertoire for some time.

At the end of the day, this album is what it is it isn't breaking new ground artistically by any stretch, but it provides a worthy showcase for Dittmeier's talent and delivers with a wry snarl. This is one of those albums I could turn on and listen to with my Kentucky-born-and-raised grandfather, drink a few beers, and we'd both appreciate it for different reasons. That's actually quite a compliment.

Find out more about Slithering Beast over at www.myspace.com/slitheringbeast.

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