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Music Review: Deer Tick’s “Divine Providence”

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

 

Making a splash: Deer Tick's newly released "Divine Providence"

Providence's Deer Tick has built on its loyal, local fan base to enjoy a near-rabid international following, and the band's much-anticipated new issue, Divine Providence, has been released to major enthusiasm and critical scrutiny. So while Deer Tick takes center stage as an alternative country/indie rock force to be reckoned with throughout the US and Europe, how does the band's big outing fare?

Divine Providence

Aside from John McCauley, the current lineup featured on Divine Providence includes Christopher Dale Ryan (bass), Dennis Ryan (drummer), Ian O’Neil (guitar) and the recently added Rob Crowell (keyboards/saxophone). Divine Providence contains 12 new tracks, varying from the rowdy booze-anthem “Lets All Go To The Bar” to the thoughtful “Clownin’ Around.” Although musically, the album jumps from straightforward rock ‘n’ roll to alternative country to grunge, there is an underlying sense of rebellion that permeates throughout the entire album.

Divine Providence is a stark departure from Deer Tick’s last album, 2010’s The Black Dirt Sessions, which was steeped in dark and broody undertones. From the opening track onward, Divine Providence establishes itself as a down and dirty rock ‘n’ roll album.

Celebration, rebellion, and beer

The album’s opener, “The Bump,” features beefy guitar chords and proclaims, “I’ve got a lust for life and a dangerous mind.” McCauley’s vocals are gritty and powerful when he declares, “We’ll face the music, next time we roll in.”

Divine Providence keeps the celebration theme going with “Lets All Go To The Bar,” which includes fast-paced guitars and a traditional sing-along refrain. Though not lyrically profound, “Lets All Go To The Bar” illustrates Deer Tick’s successful attempt to recreate the rawness of their live shows on an album.

Aside from several raucous numbers, Divine Providence includes some reflective tracks that certain fans might be more accustomed to. McCauley’s pensive nature is evident on “Main Street,” in which he muses, “Live for one second, let the whole world pass you by.” McCauley’s raspy voice, along with Crowell’s calming keyboards; make this a stand out track.

Real emotion

The album’s most emotional track, “Clownin’ Around,” features drummer Dennis Ryan on lead vocals. Despite the song’s title, the subject is no laughing matter. Words like, “I take cover behind my white face paint. While I battle my bitter father's ghost” make this entry the most moving on Divine Providence.

"Clownin’ Around" marks the first time that anyone other than McCauley has sang lead vocals on a Deer Tick track. Aside from Ryan, O’Neil performs lead vocals on “Walkin’ Out The Door” and “Now It's Your Turn”, which is both a benefit and weakness. Although the variety is a nice change of pace, O’Neil and Ryan do not possess the same vocal prowess as McCauley.

Where'd Deer Tick go?

Even though variety can be a positive, it proves to be one of the album’s hindrances. McCauley’s absence on the aforementioned tracks, accompanied by Deer Tick’s new musical direction, make the band seem unrecognizable at times.

Another one of Divine Providence’s minor shortcomings is also one its strengths. While the raucous/party nature is a refreshing direction for the band, the album may have benefited from one less song about beer and adding another sincere track.

Additionally, Deer Tick’s attempts to pay homage to their heroes is a little too blatant. The band channels Chuck Berry’s "Johnny B. Goode" on “Something To Brag About," which seems uninspired.

While Divine Providence will likely appeal to many, Deer Tick’s musical evolution might alienate some die-hard fans. Still, old-line and casual fans alike should praise the band for developing a new sound during a time when most artists are chastised for taking risks. At the very least, Divine Providence proves that Deer Tick cannot be pigeonholed as simply an indie rock outfit.

Deer Tick’s Divine Providence is now on the shelves and available to download at Amazon.com and iTunes. For more information about Deer Tick visit facebook.com/deertick.

Stars? 3.5 out of 5

Divine Providence Tracklist:

 01. The Bump

 02. Funny Word

 03. Let’s All Go to the Bar

 04. Clownin’ Around

 05. Main Street

 06. Chevy Express

 07. Something to Brag About

 08. Walkin’ Out The Door

 09. Make Believe

 10. Now It’s Your Turn

 11. Electric

 12. Miss. K

 

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