diverse, led by a gqood voice

Scarified (Zero Houar)
Dirt Merchants

By Kory Wilcoxson

The Dirt Merchants are not an easy band to pin down; their sound is not a consistent one musically, jumping around from song to song, like the moods of an emotional roller coaster.

Take for example the completely segue-less transition from the slow grind of "Strident Charm" to the sing-songy folk of "Buttercream."

"Buttercream" is the exception to the rule; most of the Dirt Merchants' songs are light on breeze and heavy on thick guitars, courtesy of Mike Malone. Alex Kisch's bass and John Malone's drums lay down a sturdy foundation.

But the most interesting instrument on Scarifled is Maria Christopher's voice. She ranges anywhere from the husky sexiness of Chrissie Hynde to the knowing innocence of Liz Phair. Christopher brings to life much of the lyrics that could have easily been lost in the swell of Malone's axe work.

She is strong enough to not let that happen, and her determination keeps Scarified from falling to just an average album.