Background: Dixie Dirt formed in 2000, quickly gaining recognition as one of the most original groups in Knoxville.
Recordings: Pieces of the World is not Dixie Dirt’s first time around the block. This band has two other stellar albums to its credit, Springtime Is for the Hopeless and Other Ideas and On Our Way Like We Never Met. The four members — guitarist/singer/songwriter Kat Brock, guitarist/keyboardist Angela Santos, bassist/keyboardist Brad Carruth and drummer Pete Bryan — have weathered an aborted move to Athens, Ga., and organized a beautifully moving rock opera, “The Unending Perils of a Predestined Destiny,” which the group only performed three times along with a backup choir.
Performed with and for: Recently added to perform at Bonnaroo 2005; in front of thousands as part of Knoxville’s Sundown in the City concert series and the annual Brewers Jam; two national tours in cities from Boston to Jacksonville, Fla., with such national acts as Lucero, Califone, Canyon, Aloha and Town & Country. The members also organize the annual New Year’s Eve celebration at Barley’s Taproom of Knoxville, which features all local bands and draws more than 800 patrons every year.
Sounds like: Dixie Dirt is not a genre band. The group doesn’t follow trends and certainly doesn’t try to sound like what’s on the radio or even some of the more obscure stuff you’ll find in CD bins at independent and mega-chain record stores around the country. They’ve been compared to such bands as Neil Young & Crazy Horse and Low and the Pixies, but such comparisons are simply a bare-bones framework of reference.
The new album: Recorded by the band members and engineered by Pete Bryan in the old house where they rehearse, Pieces of the World is a hundred-dollar bill blown to rest at your feet from across a near-empty parking lot — one of those jewels of indie rock scenes in college towns across the country that you stumble across occasionally. What makes this album different from all of those other jewels is the passion that comes across in the music.
Standout tracks: The first track, “So Good So Bad,” builds slowly, with the guitar work by Kat and Angela interweaving with Pete’s brush-drumming and Brad’s gentle bass lines. It’s a track that breaks the listener in gently, good preparation for the beautifully crashing waves of sonic emotion that advance steadily toward the album’s closing track. The album’s magnum opus — “Sleep, part one” and “Sleep, part two,” is an 18-minute epic that starts off with the beating pulse of a guitar and Pete’s rapid-fire snare-tapping. The momentum builds into a yearning, pleading howl before breaking into joyous melodies. The album’s penultimate track is the mournful “15th Street,” which starts off with a melancholy, bittersweet waltz of guitars. As the song closes, the sound builds, growing like storm clouds swirling on the horizon. There’s a brief pause, and then the record closes with “Appetite,” a song that divulges a great deal of what this album is about — a cry for attention, a lingering embrace with the darkness we all feel within and a turn back toward the light.