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Music Review - `Truth` by Dean James and The Black Dogs (jh)

James Dean and The Black Dogs  -  Truth (click on image to watch video)

23 February 2019



Dean James is a UK musician that has been playing for 15 years as a solo artist or fronting his own bands. This is his second album with the trio, Black Dogs. His sound on Truth is an interesting mix of blues, grunge, Americana, and Gothic. It’s dark, but like most dark music, it is compelling too. His sound is like that of U.S. Chicago-based Shawn James (no relation) in both its darkness and it's rather genre agnostic sound. While Shawn has more range in his immense vocal chops, Dean is no slouch. He can wail with the best of them as evidenced in many album songs but especially in the opening “Hollywood” and the closing “Higher.”

The Black Dogs are not your conventional trio. James plays rhythm guitar, Shannon Pearl provides the vocal harmonies and John Timney does everything else – lead guitar, bass, drums, percussion. He’s an excellent lead guitarist and a capable one-man rhythm section. Make no mistake that it’s Dean James” vocals that are the major appeal of the band, supported by heartfelt lyrics and grooves that range from blistering foot stompers to trance-like effects, and even to engaging ballads.

The grunge element represents both the sound and the political protest aspects of James’s music. He has done considerable charitable work for refugees, as one example. He’s more on the Soundgarden side than bands like Pearl Jam or Nirvana. It’s more intimate because he is mostly singing about his own personal journey, trying to find optimism and comfort with himself, whether “Talking To God” or asking for “Another Way.” Like grunge artists, he’s using anger and (self) love as weapons of protest and protection.

While most albums would feature the title track as its centerpiece, this one is a bit too long and repetitive. The stronger tunes are the intriguing “Talking to God,” his pulsating “Daggerman, ”Hollywood,” “Higher,” and the two ballads – “Wait for You” and “Love You.” There’s a nice pacing to the album, good shifts in dynamics and James' vocals which are emotively soulful throughout. 


Jim Hynes



Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.





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