Diesel Therapy @ The Real Music Club, Derbyshire

by DT Admin on in Review

Diesel Therapy is a four piece band from the North East of England: Danny Holmes on guitar, Jim Hornsby on dobro and guitar, Sean Taylor on bass and Eric Green on drums. You would somehow expect a band that has the initials DT to be into alcohol fuelled, happy-go-lucky, timeless, noisy, bar room filled, leather clad, rock and roll but, actually, they are something of a laid back country and; at least that’s what they were for most of the time at the Real-Music Club in Derbyshire on Saturday, 7th July. They can surprise though. They can rock and roll if and whenever they want to, and they can even do a little bit of Little Feat if they choose – all that neat, syncopated shuffle, Southern Country rock charm; Diesel Therapy can do more than the obvious.
Jim Hornsby, small, solid, open necked striped shirt loose over black jeans and boots (cowboy boots, of course) likeable, sardonic, laid back to the point of being horizontal, provided most of the songs and took the lead. He played dobro as well as guitar; not that frenetic, incomprehensible, blistering, firework display, Bluegrass on steroids style dobro, but something more gentle, more evocative. He played one tune Crossing Loch Derg so slowly, so gently, so hauntingly beautiful, that it could make grown men weep. Danny Holmes, taller, thinner, bespectacled, understated, a little bookish, a little restrained, a grey collar-less shirt over black jeans, played a lovely Martin guitar with impeccable taste and provided most of the vocal harmonies. He slipped in country runs that hung together so seamlessly with Jim’s guitar playing that you’d have thought the notes were related; he could even mimic a little bit of country twang Telecaster when he chose. Sean Murdoch, open necked, dark striped shirt, played the five string bass; more strings than usual to cope with, and when he took up the fretless bass no frets to tell him where to put his fingers, but Sean knew what he was doing. Country songs don’t always recommend themselves to bass players, the phrasing and the chord structure being a little limiting, if the truth be told, but nobody seemed to have told Sean. He found ways to slide and bend notes around even the simplest of song arrangements that you found yourself wanting the song to go on just so you could enjoy what he would come up with next.
Eric Green could only ever have been the drummer; he looked the part, he probably always looked the part. Wispy thin, all in black, ageing, bearded, long grey hair, gentle, polite, possibly a biker who’d lost his way, but not his instincts, a rider who’d left his Harley somewhere but couldn’t remember where, yet, with sticks or a brush in his hand, he knew exactly where he was and he would always know his way around a drum kit. The only thing ‘green’ about Eric is his name: not only has he ‘knocked around’ with some of the best and so earned his dues, but he played magnificently. I’ve no idea what his carbon footprint was, although he was wearing a pair of soft baseball boot style trainers, but he contributed significantly to global warming on the night, and the kiln was all the better for it. Just maybe, the playing space didn’t give him enough space to operate, just maybe, Jim and Danny, occupying the area just in front of his bass drum and practically balancing on his high hat, might have preferred more room to breathe, more room to fit in the quiet, warmth of their acoustic guitars, but the drumming was always cool, classy, subtle, and inventive. It’s not that he was noticeable because of the noise he made, that wasn’t what drew attention to him – that’s not what makes a good drummer. It’s not the volume that matters but the quality, and Eric has it in spades, or should that be ‘brushes’. He would try to add a different fill in between verses, something new, a different pattern, an echo to help with the syncopation, and he’d use the cymbals as part of the rhythm, part of the percussion, lightly, neatly, not just for showy climaxes – in fact showy climaxes were just not part of his repertoire; if he could bottle that empty dance hall brushing sound he could sell it to other, lesser drummers and make a fortune.
Most of the set came from the pen of Jim with some contributions from Danny. There is a sense of age about Jim’s songs and not just in the way he sings them. It’s not world weariness exactly, but a sense of someone who has travelled and finally come home, a sense of experience, someone who has seen and done it and is no longer easily impressed or fooled. Nonetheless the songs revealed someone who can still see hope and beauty in everyday things; a North-East cowboy, all too painfully aware of how foolish it is to be such a thing, yet, ironically aware that romance and wild things can happen anywhere. The songs are witty, honest, workman-like, honed even, but they are not cynical. They sound a little like they could be covered by an early Kenny Rogers, First Edition era, or maybe a late Knopfler, in his country phase. They are easy on the ear, with neat, subtle, syncopated style lyrics laid on a simple, easy to hum country melody. You might be tempted to let the words wash over you, making you feel a little cleaner for the experience, but they deserve and reward attention.
With any really good band it is the spaces in between, the pauses in the music that matter; that whole business of where the rhythm continues in your head but somehow the lyrics or the tune holds off, leaving a hanging, edgy, blissful moment, the air full of expectancy and anticipation, before the music flows own; that moment where it seems only you had paused to admire the effect not the band. It’s something to do with an innate sense of timing, a sense of syncopation, a delight in playing in a tight, musically inventive band, an awareness of what makes good music. Diesel Therapy is a good band!

Diesel Therapy Sharpe's Pottery Centre Neil Dalton The Maverick (Issue 62, September 2007) The Maverick