Dustin Down and Dirty

[rating:8.5/10]

dustin

Like many punk rock warlords before him, Dustin Kensrue, the lead singer and lyricist of the prolific punk/rock/hardcore/alternative act Thrice, decided to strip it all down and lay it on the line in 2007 with Please Come Home, his solo debut. The tradition of punks paying homage to folk, blues, and country roots has produced some really solid results in the past decade. Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin further developed his spiritual side through his Jesus Movement-esque protest folk on Cold as the Clay. Mike Ness explored his love for old time country music including covers of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard, as well as honky tonk versions of Social D songs, during his break from Social Distortion. Mike Park, of seminal ska-punk act Skankin’ Pickle, has spent most of his post-Pickle days play folky acoustic punk in kids’ backyards and living rooms. Now, joining these ranks, Dustin channels the spirit and strength of a young David Gray while playing his own brand Amerciana folk music.

Where Dustin’s influences on this album come from would likely be a long discussion, but a few artists that immediately jump into my mind are Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, and Bruce Springsteen. Like these artists, Kensrue’s brand of Americana tells stories and conveys deep thoughts and emotions. Some tracks sound like they were written in the style of Bob Dylan, painting a strong picture and story for the listener. Other tracks almost create a worshipful feeling, which is not a surprise as Dustin Kensrue has never been afraid to share his Christian faith through his lyrics and music. Traditional country musicians, Mississippi Delta bluesmen, modern singer-songwriters, and rock gods should all find something on Please Come Home that they can sink their teeth into.

The opener, “I Knew You Before” demonstrates Dustin’s obvious country influences. The drumming in the track creates a rumbling feeling of a long train ride through the midwestern United States. This drum beat paired with twangy guitar picking and other country/western elements engenders daydreams of riding the rails in a freight car, feeling the breeze from the open hatch… at least for me it does.

Each track thereafter has a soul of its own, but I will highlight a couple that jump out to me as tracks that I’ll listen to over and over.

“Pistol” is the track that immediately brought David Gray to mind. As I like early David Gray material, it’s not a surprise that I like this David Gray-esque folk song. A bluesy element is brought into the track from the start with a harmonica solo at the beginning of the song, which is used during the chorus of the song as well. Kensrue’s croon adds so much emotion to this beautiful love song that could easily have been a wedding song for me if I had heard it 5 years ago.

You’re the girl of my dreams
Darling, please wear this ring
You’re an angel through and through
Time to lay down my life
Honey I’ll do it gladly for you.

Another track that jumps out is “Weary Saints”. It may be the track that sounds most like Thrice in its style and overall structure. Being a huge Thrice fan, it’s no surprise that this is one of my favorite tracks on the album. “Weary Saints” is a pop-oriented acoustic rock song with multiple parts. It reminds me a track like “The Artist in the Ambulance” played acoustically. Being that The Artist in the Ambulance could crack my list of top 10 albums of all time and that “The Artist in the Ambulance” is my favorite track on the album, this comparison is meant as nothing short of praise.

In an effort to spare you from an overly lengthy review (one where I just won’t shut up, even though you are begging me to), I won’t highlight each track, but I certainly could say something about each and every one. This is because the album is solid from its rambling opener to its closing ballad, “Blanket of Ghosts”. I could expand on the faith Dustin displays in “I Believe”, a bouncy pop-folk song in the vein of Jack Johnson… or I could write about the spirit of Johnny Cash displayed in “Blood & Wine”… but I’ll leave it at that. I could go on for pages, but none of my words can do this album justice. Please Come Home is a quality solo debut, but from the voice of Thrice, I’d expect nothing less.

~ by thepaintedman on July 3, 2008.

One Response to “Dustin Down and Dirty”

  1. […] the last album with an alt-country feel that dig anything for me was Dustin Kensrue’s solo album, which came out some time ago. If you are like me and don’t typically listen to a lot of folk or […]

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