Starting life during lockdown, the Dirty Strangers’ triumphant sixth studio album ignites an exciting new phase for the band formed by founding mainstay Alan Clayton over forty years ago.
Still carrying the torch for rock ‘n’ roll’s original primal spirit filtered through Rolling Stones’ R&B roots, Hunter’s Moon brandishes Clayton’s strongest brace of songs to date, sublimely bolstered by a new Dirties line-up at the same time as saying farewell to long-time keyboard maestro Scott Mulvey, who passed away in 2021 and features on four tracks.
Named after the last full moon in October that proves most beneficial for hunters, the album sees the energised rock ‘n’ soul that Clayton’s been firing up on the UK’s club circuit with different Dirty Strangers line-ups since the late 70s imbued with acoustic and country flavours sometimes recalling side three of the Stones’ Exile On Main Street.
Clayton attributes this and the added depth of his vividly eloquent lyrics to writing in lockdown seclusion on the 1964 Gibson Hummingbird acoustic gifted to him by Keith Richards over 20 years ago. Initially, Clayton sent four songs online to be embellished by collaborators including Mulvey, The Quireboys Guy Griffin and Pip Mailing and bassist Cliff Wright. ‘State of Affair’, ‘Stay For a Little While’, self-reflecting ‘Pirates Don’t Get Pensions’ and evocative tour de force ‘Cell Block No. 5’ already embodied the broader musical scope that elevates the album.
Of the latter, Clayton explains, “The lyrics are set in prison but it’s about being on your own. The album was formed during Covid times, the songs all written in lockdown cos I had a lot of time on my hands. It was a good time to write with all those strong feelings around. I just had a period of writing songs – but obviously a very fruitful period!”
As lockdown eased and against the tragedy of losing Scotty, further tracks appeared as a new core Dirties line-up solidified as Cliff Wright, returning drummer Lawrence Fox and original guitarist John Rollason, who’d sparred with Keith Richards on the band’s 1987 debut album and provides a succession of dazzling moments 35 years later.
As the creative process flamed on at Clayton’s West One Two Studio in Sussex, disparate moods and textures fleshed out the acoustic bones of more songs, including the piledriving title track, grinding ‘T’Troublemaker’, ‘Slap Bang’, guitars only ‘Anything You Say’ and rollicking rockabilly rework of much-loved live fave ‘Gold Cortina’ from 2009’s third album West 12 To Wittering. “I couldn’t sell it so it had to go back on sale again!” laughs Clayton. “We don’t play it like this live but it sits well within the album with those different moods I was on about, It’s all rock ‘n’ roll based but it ain’t all ‘bang bang bang’.”
‘La La La I Couldn’t Care Less’ is driven by Alan’s then-thirteen-year-old niece Holly Clayton on drums, inspired by, “that sort of arrogant ‘I don’t care’ teenage swagger. I wrote that with her in mind, cos when she came round it’s sort of like a girlie thing to say. It’s a family affair; keeps the thread going.” Hearing its attitudinal churn, Clayton’s Damned guitarist friend Brian James declared, “That’s your Small Faces song, Al.”
Released on the band’s DS Records, Hunter’s Moon is trailered by rip-this-joint tear-up ‘My Girl’s A Getaway Driver’ making its ram-raiding point in one minute and forty seconds as first single. If the world has changed irrevocably in the eight years since 2015’s Crime and a Woman, Alan Clayton’s supernatural connection with rock ‘n’ roll’s original spirit and its assorted tributaries remains defiantly alive, kicking and blazing brighter than ever on this magnificent new album.
1. Hunter’s Moon (Clayton)
2. La La La I Couldn’t Care Less (Clayton)
3. Pirates Don’t Get Pensions (Clayton)
4. My Girl’s A Getaway Driver (Clayton)
5. Cell Block No.5 (Clayton)
6. T’troublemaker (Clayton)
7. Slap Bang (Clayton)
8. State Of Affair (Clayton)
9. Gold Cortina (Clayton)
10. Stay For A Little While (Clayton)
11. Anything You Say (Clayton)