Reviewed by Roger Sharman
Release date 26th October 2018
Dillon Carmichael possesses a deep & rich Baritone voice. He has real country pedigree in his blood, Uncle Eddie Montgomery (Montgomery Gentry) & John Michael Montgomery no less. Already in his short career, Dillon has already collaborated with some of the finest artists in Country Music, such as Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton & Jason Isbell. ‘Hell On an Angel’, his debut long player, has been produced by Mr Dave Cobb, probably the most vaunted producer in Country\Americana right now.
Hailing from Burgin, Kentucky, Dillon started writing at an early age, headed to Nashville at 18 years old, and like many didn’t have the best of experiences.
I’d heard a few tracks by Dillon prior to this release, and they have all been very much in line with my musical taste, a working man’s sound, deeply rooted in traditional country, with a bit of Southern rock thrown in. It’s obvious that Dillon’s influences include Haggard, Jennings & Jones. If you didn’t know who was singing on this album, you would think it was one of the old established stars such is the quality of the record.
The current single, released on 22nd October, ‘Dancing Away with My Heart’ is a smouldering beauty. Imagine a Keith Whitley song, being sung by Cody Jinks or Jamey Johnson & there you have it, indeed, when I first heard it I thought of Cody’s ‘Somewhere between I love you & I’m leavin’’.
The album opener, ‘Natural Disaster’, has an intro building to a crescendo of sirens, organ, guitar & drums. If Metallica circa their self-titled album decided it was going to be a country album & they enlisted Jamey Johnson on lead vocals I am sure that it would sound just like this. There’s a soaring guitar solo that deserves a mention. I think this is an incredible start to a debut album. WOW!
‘It’s Simple’ is a catchy love song, sounds like something that Kendell Marvel would write. I’ll point out at this stage that the backing vocals on this entire album are stunning, one-minute sounding like the Honkettes the next sounding like Pistol Annies.
‘Country Women’ has a real old-time Honky Tonk sound, with a wonderful combination guitar & piano intro leading into a vocal that really sounds like Uncle Eddie at times. Try sitting still to this I dare you?
Blazing Skynyrd like guitars and backing vocals throughout, grace the next track ‘Hell on an Angel’ mixed with a Waylon sounding bass line this is one of my favourites. Southern rock at its finest. Just like ‘Dancing away with my Heart’ this song has been on repeat for the last couple of days in my apartment, no doubt annoying the neighbours with the volume.
‘Hard on a Hangover’ is a real traditional country song, it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Whitey Morgan and the 78s album. While Whitey is all rough and gravel like in tone, Dillon is as smooth as a shot of TX Whiskey, vocally he is so good that he could sing anything.
‘That’s What Hank Would do’ is probably the weakest track on the album in my opinion, and that’s just me trying to be objective. Don’t get me wrong its still a very good song, and again, if I didn’t know better I would have sworn during the opening notes sung that it was Jamey Johnson, they sound uncannily similar at times.
‘Might Be a Cowboy’ is another really good love song, very well written with a catchy hook to the chorus:
You’ll always be by my side
Like a Colt .45
If you let me, I’ll be your John Wayne
I’ll give you my love
Together we’ll chase the sun
And I swear at the end of the day
Might be a cowboy but I’ll never ride away
I’m thinking theme tune to a modern-day Bonanza type TV Box set.
‘Old Flame’ is a real stand out track. I would love to see Dillon live, preferably in a little Honky Tonk in Texas, and I’d be waiting for this track. This is a country power ballad, about drunk dialling an ex but wishing he hadn’t.
The album draws to an end with ‘Dixie Again’ with another huge slice of southern rock pie. This is a spectacular ending. I imagine this is the encore song to Dillon’s live show as it builds from the opening piano solo intro to a big guitar solo, more Allman Brothers than Skynyrd this time, but with those beautiful, harmonious Honkette style backing vocals.
It’s really hard to comprehend how an Album of such quality can be completed in the studio from start to finish in 2 weeks. Dave Cobb has certainly backed himself another winner. Dillon Carmichael is a star in the making, I have absolutely no doubt about that. I’ll be following his career very closely from now on, I will buy the merchandise, I will go to the shows and sing every single word!