Curiously named after a choice encounter with a parasite during a forest hike, Deer Tick return with their third album in four years. The Black Dirt Sessions were recorded during the same sessions as previous album Born on Flag Day and features much of the same maturity in youth as its predecessor.
Singer John McCauley retains his rough as sandpaper voice, as well as a fine collection of angst filled lyrics to accompany it. The heartfelt Goodbye, Dear Friend, pays testimony to this perfectly. With literal lyrics throughout 'Carry on in pictures and songs' 'and the unmade bed you slept in' its sombreness is aided by some chilling piano playing, that never lets up. Despite walking the fine line of sentiment and over emotion, you can't help but admire its passion and raw edge.
The theme of death is a constant feature on The Black Dirt Sessions, ballad Christ Jesus 'as I'm drowning and struggling to breath, it's your face I see' and the 'Beatlesy' Choir of Angles equipped with heavenly choir singing, don't exactly nominate themselves as pass the parcel material at kids parties.
There are also moments of pure brilliance on this album, Piece by Piece and Frame by Frame presents itself as the albums strongest track. Mixing Elliot Smith-like acoustics with McCauley's, Ryan Adams esque vocals beautifully, it floats along confidently in a way that's lacking far too often on this album.
By using songs from a previous albums recording sessions for this album, Deer Tick are basically turning their back on progression, and its this lack of growth that could ultimately hold them back in the future. It's to no surprise that this album is far from a departure from Born on a Flag day, and you cant help but find yourself wishing they would experiment a bit more, just to see where it could take them.
At just 24, singer and song writing chief John McCauley writes with the maturity of a seasoned folk singer, touring for the last time. It becomes hard to work out if this aged persona is a good thing or a bad thing, it's partly impressive, mainly because it allows his songs to have deeper qualities than other song writers of his generation. However, his song writing seems to lack the naivety and freshness of youth and in doing so zaps an element of fun from it.