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June 2024
Vol. 23, No. 9

CD Reviews

DAVE PRESTON: Sniffin ‘n’ Scratchin

by Wayne RikerJune 2024

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Dave Preston is back front and center again with his latest CD release, Sniffin ‘n’ Scratchin. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Preston himself, the 11 tracks of original tunes are backed aptly by a solid nucleus of top-flight musicians under the banner of Dave Preston and the Grown Ups led by Ken Gill on electric guitar, Jef Kmak on bass, Marland Waak on drums, Darrell Richardson on blues harp, and Cheryl Jackson Preston on harmony vocals, with guest appearances from Candy Girard on fiddle, Doug Pettibone on guitar and electric mandolin, and Richie Strell on blues harp.

Preston’s catchy and creative lyrical storytelling and life’s observations are evident from the opening funky title track, “Sniffin n’ Scratchin,” behind Gill and Richardson’s slick blues riffing amid the repeating chorus: “yeah that crazy woman…trying to steal my junk.” Particularly evident and pleasing is Gill’s lead guitar styling, solid tone, phrasing, and playing accuracy over each chord change when called for.

The spooky, repetitive motif on “Secrets” spotlights Gill and Richardson exchanging tasty riffs behind Preston’s lyrical muse: “now if you see me conversing with a cat, you know I’ve got problems.”

“Kentucky Mud” is illuminated by the duet vocal harmony between Preston and Jackson Preston intertwined with Preston’s vocal chorus: “Kentucky blood is thicker than water, Kentucky mud it sticks to your bones,” followed by “Jesus and the Devil,” a two-steppin’ country goodie that finds Preston at the Dew Drop Inn only to find the devil playing in a honky-tonk band.

The haunting minor-key ballad, “Dragon’s Breath,” has Preston channeling a Leonard Cohen storytelling vibe: “it wasn’t hard to find the dragon’s breath, it was easy to find him there with his green teeth and his breath of kerosene, he could light up a room if you know what I mean,” complemented by Pettibone’s seductive musical phrases. ”

On the track “Detroit,” Girard’s lively, blues-tinged fiddle licks dance around the sweet vocal harmonies of Preston and Jackson Preston. “Detroit, Detroit, you left me in your dust, Detroit, Detroit, you left me here to rust,” not to be outdone by the swamp blues rocker “Hurricane Rose,” again sweetened by Gill’s spot on guitar licks and solo. “Now everywhere she goes…my hurricane rose…she’ll take all your money because you can’t say no.”

The mostly simple background chordal patterns take a 180-degree turn on the track “Dirty Water,” employing a thematic syncopated atonal melodic riff behind Preston’s eerie vocal tones, a tune Frank Zappa would have been proud to have authored and arranged.

Fiddler, par excellence, Girard lets loose in Irish jig fashion on the tune “Satisfy Me,” followed by the down home 12-bar blues groove on “Tired a’ Workin,” drenched with just the right blues harp motifs.

The album concludes with “Freeway Sign,” bringing Girard back one final time for her pleasantly in tune fiddle chops behind Preston in true Woody Guthrie vocal style: “I ain’t got no house anymore, this title is now my front door,” closing the curtain on a superb and diverse array of musical arrangements supported deftly by “the Grown Ups.” Well done!


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