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Art Theefe - Dig Deep

  by Adrian Janes

published: 10 / 12 / 2018



Art Theefe - Dig Deep
Label: Stolen Heart Records
Format: CD

intro

Disappointing debut album from Oxford-based trio Art Theefe mixes rock, country and folk with more art than heart


Art Theefe are making their debut with this album, but linchpin Matt Sage’s long musical experience is suggested by the fact that the bandmates in his original group went on to form Faithless. Presumably musical differences led to this split, as the contents of ‘Dig Deep’ could hardly be less like Faithless’ dance raptures. Rather it’s steeped in age-old folk and a sort of country-inflected rock which might be considered quite current if this was still 1974. The most interesting tracks are those that move farthest away from that rather hackneyed template. ‘Cold Dark Night’ is given some real atmosphere by deep pattering percussion, soulful female backing vocals and Sage’s expressive electric solo. Unfortunately, his voice (which on most of the songs is quite tuneful if rarely heart-stopping) here affects an unpleasant growl, like Chris Rea after a misguided course in singing from Tom Waits. The instrumental ‘Steely Jam’ is distinguished both by being the only one and by the feeling that for once the trio is really cutting loose. The album’s clarity of sound is at its peak here for all of the players, Joel Bassuk’s drums coming through especially crisp and strong. As for the rest, ‘Laudanum Girl’ is probably the best, employing sombre strings on a song of doomed love. Why such an antique drug should be invoked remains a mystery even for a largely backwards-looking album like this, though it may help it appeal to (Branwell) Brontë fans. If you want folk-based pleasantness, ‘I Have Named You the Queen’ and ‘Afterglow’ will supply this. But although Sage has reportedly had songs played on all the BBC Music stations, even Radio 2 would baulk at the blandness of some of the other tracks. Closer ‘Digging in the Dirt’ encapsulates another of the album’s faults: lines like “Take off your shirt/When you’re digging in the dirt” and “Hang up your coat/And everything you wrote” repeatedly suggest a grabbing for the first rhyme that comes to mind, which as often leads to banalities as much as anything more meaningful. Since no-one else is credited, ‘Dig Deep’ is presumably self-produced. So it should be noted that it undoubtedly sounds good, and that Sage, Bassuk and bassist Josh Rigal can certainly play. But these talents are sadly sacrificed on largely ordinary material. Maybe if they take their own title as an imperative, their next album might really probe and emotionally hook.



Track Listing:-
1 I Have Named You the Queen
2 I Trained a Spy
3 The Right Thing
4 Steely Jam
5 The Afterglow
6 Broken Angel
7 Cold Dark Night
8 Laudanum Girl
9 Golden Switch
10 Don't Let the World Go by



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