A name probably new to many readers over here, The Dinallos should appeal to any fan of top notch country music. To their base ingredient of country The Dinallos blend generous measures of blues and soul to create a fresh modern sound to complement their perceptive lyrics.
Though their first record together Juliet Simmons Dinallo and husband Michael each has an impressive musical CV. Based in Nashville both attended the prestigious Berklee School of music in Boston, although Juliet’s voice might suggest she’d been in Music City all her life. Just think Shelby Lynne or Emmylou Harris. With his roots and blues background Michael leans more towards Memphis having been guitarist in the 1990s Boston blues band Radio Kings and, among many other projects, he produced the acclaimed “Feel Like Going Home: The Songs of Charlie Rich”. The Dinallos take you on a musical journey from Nashville to Memphis. It’s a great ride.
The most lasting impression is the album’s variety. From reflective country ballad to assertive blues rockers the songs span accepting, dealing with and learning from life’s various obstacles and challenges. Along that road they find failure and loss but there no wallowing in self-pity, instead Juliet’s voice radiates a determination and happiness.
The album opens with the first of three instrumentals, another example of its scope. Inspired by a fairground carousel, ’All the Ponies Go ‘Round (Danny’s Lullaby)’ steps out on an elegant canter of their own. Tremolo guitars and B3 organ add to the sense of mystique and timelessness of these majestic creatures.
‘Kilimanjaro’ starts with a swaggering Memphis guitar line that leads into uplifting gospel from Juliet and the McCrary Sisters. The tempo and lyric exudes the resolve of the song’s beginnings; a person who, having recovered from serious illness, went on to climb that formidable peak. Layers of guitars B3 and harmonies add a hymnal touch to the McCrary’s harmonies.
Picking up the pace ‘When The World Was Mine’ is a big classic country sound. ‘Lemonade’ is a truly family affair as vocals by the Dinallo’s daughter Annabel (10) would indicate talent runs to the next generation. The chickaboom rhythm and spare guitar solo is pure Tennessee Three.
Emmylou echoes throughout ‘Time Machine’, a lilting recollection of a dream and ‘Fine Time of Year’, an aching, spare lament “it’s a fine of year to do it/ it’s a fine time of year to let me go/ it’s a fine time of you to watch you disappear”. The arrangement is correspondingly bleak. ‘Purgatory Road’ is a rolling piece of Americana complete with accordion that skips along to Juliet’s duet with Will Kimbrough. The dial sticks on Americana with the haunting ‘While You Were Looking Down’ before heading into the soulful ‘You Got Nothing on Me’. We have arrived in Memphis.
The Dinallos wrote all the songs bar one cover, a magnificently countryfied ‘Monday Morning’. After a cascading fiddle and two-step it takes a minute to recognise the song. This reviewer may never listen to the original again.
The only break in the record’s flow comes in ‘Private Hell’. The menacing riff that builds into a frenzied crescendo of voice and slide achieves its purpose but it does slightly jar with the rest of the album.
The album concludes with an instrumental aptly named ‘ The Long Goodbye’, not that it is in any way tedious. A hallmark of the record is the quality and inventiveness of the arrangements and production, courtesy of Michael, and this piece allows an opportunity for the many fine musicians who play on the album to exit with a bow.
Many new releases create an immediate impression often limited to one or two dimensions, perhaps vocals or specific instrumentation. When that first blast subsides and while still a good album, that is it. The Dinallos, like the healthiest sustenance, is a slow release of high quality production through Juliet’s expressive country soul voice, Michael’s playing and production and the contribution of so many others; Jim Gambino’s B3, Dave Jacques on bass, Tim Carter’s mandolin and banjo to name a few. On each spin something new emerges. The Dinallos is a keeper and we must hope Juliet and Michael will come over here one day.