CD REVIEW Drive Like Maria

Band : Drive Like Maria
Album title : Drive Like Maria
Label : Zoo Studios
Distributor : PIAS
Release date : 11/05/2012 (The Netherlands)
Release : CD

Funny, I could've sworn I'd come across this band before, either by buying their debut album Elmwood, or by reviewing it...but it turns out neither of the two ever happened. In fact, the album wasn't even review by any of my colleagues at Concrete Web. Hum...this means I have to go back to 2005...

...which is when DLM was formed in the town of Hasselt by the trio of lead singer/ drummer Bjorn Awouters, guitarist Nitzan Hoffman, and bassist/ backing singer Robin van Saaze. Their "Hard Rock" being a blend of Stoner Rock, Blues Rock and Rock 'n' Roll, the band participated to that year's Global Battle Of The Bands. After winning the Dutch version of the event, the band went on to end up as second in the international finals in London. Soon after the DLM was signed to the Dutch division of PIAS. Elmwood [named after the Dallas neighborhood where producer John Congleton (of Black Mountain and The Roots repute) recorded and mixed it] was released in March of 2009, and had the particularity to feature American singer/ songwriter Janis Ian on two songs. The album was in the Dutch album charts for 3 weeks, with a #51 as highest notation. The album's first single, "I'm On A Train" was released the same month, and reached #5 in the specialized charts Kink 40. Early 2010 saw DLM being invited to participate to the infamous SxSW festival in Austin Texas in March, and Canada's NxNE in June. In both cases the band did some extra shows, as the US audiences that witnessed the sparse shows of the band went kinda berserk over their performances. Meanwhile, the band's line-up has been enhanced with drummer Bram van den Berg, which has allowed Bjorn to turn to second guitar. I'm sure it increases the live experience even more.

So now here's the sophomore album (this time recorded & engineered by the Bjorn and Nitzan themselves at ZooStudios' own recording facility in Certaldo, Italy...then mixed & mastered in Holland) which, having again spent 3 weeks in the Dutch album charts following its release, this time managed to climb up to the #26 position. Certainly, the fact that the band played a support slot to ZZ Top's show at Vorst Nationaal on the day after the release, and then supported none other than AC/DC when the latter played Amsterdam's Arena on the 23 of that same month, must've helped a little with the sales figures, right? As on the debut, there's a couple of guest performances. First and most notably, by Lara Chedraoui, whom goes into a vocal duet with Bjorn in the track "Howl" (which finds backing vocals being done by one Noémie Wolfs – she can also be heard on the songs "Where the Brokenhearted Go" and "Woke Up Hard" – and Josefien Terburg). Then, there's one Cedric Murrath, whom took care of the strings in the sensitive semi-acoustic ballad "On The Road". Last, but not least, Remko Kühne adds solina (didn't quite hear that) to "Boomerang" and Wurlitzer (plus delay effects) to album closer (again a balladesque track) "Bury My Heart In The Desert" (hah, you don't know how good I feel about the Wurlitzer being mentioned in the album's booklet...I knew I recognized that specific electric piano sound, and getting a confirmation is such a personal gratification, you know!?).

In the past, DLM's songs have been described as "influenced by Led Zeppelin, early ZZ Top, Neil Young, and Queens Of The Stone Age"...and depending on the song you're listening to, that is certainly still a correct description. If you're into that combination, and for your listening pleasure, the band has its own website (www.) drivelikemaria.com (only a video for "Howl" there), Spotify, MySpace, and more, but as far as the new album's full-length version songs to listen to are concerned, you're still best off surfing to the band's facebook (3 songs featured off the new album, plus the aforementioned "I'm On A Train" from the previous album). For songs off the old album, check out the band's MySpace). 

I recently read a show review by a Dutch music journalist, whom felt that what this band needed next, was a face of their own. Uh...I mean, this band's music is great! And I'm sure that on stage, it exhilarates more than just a couple of young men with musical ambitions to see Nitzan shred away on the guitar...so, what's that all about? Great band, by all means, and I'm not just saying that on account of my editor-in-chief giving me the album on purpose, because he's doing the promotion in Belgium!

90/100

Tony.