You have to admire the tenacity and dedication of a musical artist who has been plugging away at his craft for more than 20 years and hasn't quite made it to the national spotlight. Once you listen to the latest album from Seattle-based singer-songwriter Tom Dyer, I Ain't Blue Anymore, it is clear that popular success probably isn't his greatest priority. This is not what you would call pretty music. Some of it sounds strange, some dissonant. If sometimes it seems unpolished, you need to remember that polish only covers the surface. It is raw with the depth of heartfelt passion, and raw passion is never very pretty.
Dyer's voice is not pretty, but then Bob Dylan's voice is not pretty. Tom Waits' voice is not pretty. One of Dyer's earliest influences as he points out in his album notes was the blues legend Howlin' Wolf, and his voice isn't pretty either. Dyer sings with grit and the raspy growl of experience. It is the voice of the blues, and although he claims he's not "really sure you would call this a blues album," he says it is "a blues-inspired album, that is for sure." And with a couple of exceptions among the album's 13 tracks, blues seems to me an apt description, and quite good blues at that.
Most of the tunes are Dyer originals, some going back as far as 1979 and 1980. The lyrics of "There Be Killin' (In My Town)" have been updated to deal topically with a terrible spike in killings in Seattle in 2012. Dyer's vocal echoes the horror of the killings. It is a nice marriage of style and content, sound and sense. The same is true of "Rollin' On the Clay" which he calls a "post-apocalyptic vision...with a beat" and climaxes in appropriate musical cacophony. These are the kinds of dark songs that work well with Dyer's voice. "The Day I Died" closes the album with another dark gem.