Sound: When George Thorogood & The Destroyers were churning out hits in the late 1970s and 1980s, the blues singer/guitarist had an undeniable rough quality that was instant hit. Taking on John Lee Hooker's One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer and Bo Diddley's Who Do You Love, Thorogood injected new life into blues standards. For his latest album The Dirty Dozen, there is a similar approach with everyone from Chuck Berry to Howlin' Wolf being covered along the way. Are the results the same as when Thorogood was a fresh-faced 20-something-year-old? Not exactly. While you cannot deny The Destroyers still have amazing chemistry and Thorogood never disappoints with his slide ability, the vocals tend to feel slightly stale when compared with classics like Bad To The Bone.
The Dirty Dozen contains two sections: Side One dedicated to new recordings and Side Two devoted to fan favorites. Most of the material is also written by iconic blues artists, with Howlin' Wolf to Sleepy John Estes among the original writers/performers. The six new songs (among which include Tail Dragger, Drop Down Mama, and Twenty Dollar Gig) have their moments, but at the same time they don't capture the magic that you expect from The Destroyers. The main issue is that Thorogood although still a capable vocalist doesn't have as much attitude oozing out of every line. The man is almost 60 and can't be expected to sound exactly like he did in 1980, but his delivery is simply not as engaging.
The newer songs should be appreciated by fans, particularly the train-keep-a-rollin' vibe of Bo Diddley's Let Me Pass, but the real highlights come in Side 2. It's completely understandable why these are fan favorites, as they play on the more down-and-dirty side of George. Howlin' For My Baby, originally written by Howlin' Wolf, is obviously the direct influence to such hits as ZZ Top's La Grange and is simply an infectious tune all around. Highway 49 amazes with its juicy slide guitar moments, and it drives home the fact that Thorogood hasn't lost his chops. The cover of Roy Head's Treat Her Right doesn't really bring anything fresh when compared with the original, but it's still a likable track that would be a winner as a concert sing-along. // 6
Lyrics: If you're a fan of old-school blues lyrics, then you'll love to indulge in The Dirty Dozen. The bulk of its lyrical content comes from the likes of bluesmen throughout the ages, and you'll get the blues expressed in every way, shape, and form. Among the highlights is the Howlin' Wolf tune Tail Dragger, which includes such gems as: When the mighty Wolf make a midnight creep; Then the hunters, they can't find him; Stealin' chicks. // 8
Overall Impression: Although the musicianship has not disappeared from George Thorogood & The Destroyers, there seems to be something a bit more sterile about The Dirty Dozen. Tracks like Six Days on the Road and Howlin' For My Baby do live up to expectations, but others like Run Myself Out Of Town end up being a bit lifeless. Thorogood now sounds like a good deal of solid contemporary blues musicians out there, which might be the main issue. In the past there was always something a bit more dangerous about him, and that aspect just come across enough on The Dirty Dozen. // 7