Reviews for Smoke & Mirrors...
Dixie Witch is, and has always been, a band whose true majesty can only be grasped in the live setting. For whatever reason, the band's brand of classic power-trio heavy rock seems to spring into a further dimension when the three members step onto a stage. I'm not even sure a live album would suffice: The Small Stone reissue of the band's rare debut, Into the Sun, had a live bonus track that wouldn't leave a novice dumbstruck like the spectacle of seeing the band and its live setup, which includes approximately 4,000 amps and several live goats.
The band seems to be getting closer to capturing their live power in the studio, though. Smoke & Mirrors, while not quite an accurate representation of the band in peak form, is a marked step forward from the two previous albums. Since the band members are exemplary players, this improvement must then be credited to an upswing in songwriting, something which is apparent as soon as opening track "Shoot the Moon" hits its classic rock radio-worthy chorus.
The recording sounds fine, thanks to Joel Hamilton's always-exemplary knob-twirling, and even if the record ends on a slight down note with a somewhat superfluous nine-and-a-half minute instrumental, this is still the first Dixie Witch record I'd recommend to a newcomer.
Brian VarneyJuly 7th, 2006www.lollipop.com
I canĺt help, but the latest album "One Bird, Two Stones" of Austinĺs one and only DIXIE WITCH didnĺt convince me as much as I hoped. Maybe my expectations have been too high, because their debut "Into The Sunô was (and still is) a masterful piece of heaviest southern-drenched 70Ĺs hardrock, combined with a slight doom feel. The second album was more settled down on the bluesier side of rock, whatĺs not that bad, but I missed the bandĺs passionate power and a few of the songs were a bit average for DIXIE WITCH. Three years have passed, and "Smoke & Mirrors" is the third album of the band, again released by Small Stone Records, who also reissued "Into The Sunô in 2005. And the new one is exactly the album I expected after the first! Great songs, great riffs and great vocals, again shared between drummer Trinidad Leal and bassist Curt Christenson, and again T. Leal is the winner here, although C.Christenson is doing a fine job, too. I donĺt know much drummer, which own such a powerful voice like him. Not to forget guitarist Clayton Mills, who is responsible for a more than a dozen of smoking riffs and soulful solos. For my taste, "Smoke & Mirrorsô contains some of the best songs, which the group recorded until now. Just take the first three ones "Set the Speedô, "Shoot the Moonô and "S.O.L.ô and I hope, your doubts will be wiped away within a few minutes.. This is finest US-Hardrock, strongly influenced by the early albums of Blackfoot, Aerosmith and even Kiss have found their way into the massive rockĺnĺroll of DIXIE WITCH. The southern roots of the band are still shining through the album, and especially the doomy "Ballinger Crossô or "Last Callô are just two examples here. The moody "Last Callô is an epic piece, with additional hammond organs plus Wurlitzer piano, what leads the band near to the mighty Govĺt Mule. And although this bands kicks serious ass, no matter if the pace is slow or fast, hereĺs still an intense emotional depth, what sets DIXIE WITCH apart from most of the other bands who draw influences out of the same sources like the powertrio. "Smoke & Mirrorsô is an excellent and authentic package, and Iĺm very pleased about the fact, that DIXIE WITCH are back in best shape!
(KK)January 13th, 2008www.cosmiclava.com
Texas finest sons deliver some damn fine, shit-kicking stoner boogie for long hot summer nights.
Dixie Witch's latest "Smoke & Mirrors" kicks off with a superb double act, the magnificent 'Set The Speed' followed swiftly by 'Shoot The Moon.'
'Set The Speed' with its Skynyrd meets Sabbath ginuwine rock-a-thon vibrations, blasts convincingly into the equally air-guitar friendly 'Shoot The Moon.' This mighty opening salvo is then followed by the dirty Motorhead and Mastodon drag race called 'S.O.L.' Talk about a fine start to their latest offering.
Dixie Witch - Smoke & Mirrors 'Ballinger Cross' follows the rather blah 'Out In the Cold' and outdoes it in every way possible, making the former seem all the more like filler material. After a brief rolling session and some reflection comes an unexpected foot stomping change in the middle of 'Getaway', followed by a very serious solo. Texan boys Dixie Witch sure can rock, whether it's for two minutes or seven, as bombastic solos are confronted with a heavy modern backline and a whole heap of fuzz.
Skynyrd-style guitar bottlenecking are the bones of 'What You Want', which displays a very southern groove. The vocals here are sort of reminiscent of Dave Wyndorf sent back to the 60s to save the future of rock.
The vocals in general are very classic rock, with overtones at times of both Ozzy and Bruce Dickinson. No bad thing, but they sometimes fail to match the intensity of the heavy-dropping backline and some dynamics feel slightly unfulfilled. That said, I far prefer the band's vocal delivery to any full-on growl-o-rama!
Dixie Witch recorded this album with Joel Hamilton, who has worked with acts as diverse as Mike Patton and Elvis Costello, and his touch shines through in the production, everything sounds as it was meant to, from the dirty gritty moments to the shiny peaks of the songs.
"Smoke and Mirrors" can certainly kick out the jams, although the pace does drop a bit from the raucous start. A rather fine slab of modern stoner grooves to kick back with on a long hot summer's eve, this is perfect music for driving to the beach on one of 'those' days. Best enjoyed lightly chilled.
dave e destructionSeptember, 2006www.roadburn.com
With the resurgence (and commercial success) of "retro-rock," it seems that every band has looked rearward for some nostalgic inspiration. Vintage threads? Check. Handlebar mustaches? Check. But the one '70s-era novelty they have all neglected is the singing drummer. Think of all the amazing bands fronted by the man behind the skins. The Band! The Eagles! Genesis? We can all remember how each of those bands' drummers would draw his boom mike close for a powerful vocal rendition while their hands, almost magically, continued to pound out a rhythm. Recently we've had successful quartets, collectives, and duos -- oh, have we had duos. But where is the trio? Enter Dixie Witch.
Long since established as the as a preeminent touring triumvirate, Dixie Witch's previous efforts have all suffered the same ailment: a preponderance of midrange frequencies that caused many to suggest they turn down the sloppy knob. As anyone who has witnessed Dixie Witch's spectacular show can attest, this imbalanced equalization belied one exceedingly tight group. For the first time, under the watchful eye of Joel Hamilton, the band's aural assault has been allowed to shine in all its glory. Lead track "Set the Speed" is easily the album's strongest. Boasting one of Clayton Mills's most impressive riffs to date, as well as a steady diet of Trinidad Leal's double kick, it's the perfect introduction to Dixie Witch's instrument-centric ethos. And that's certainly not a bad thing when the band's musical prowess is so awe-inspiring. It does, however, make lyrics less of a priority.
Dixie Witch is clearly treading the same lyrical territory on Smoke & Mirrors as it did on previous releases, with Leal conjuring one recurring image -- life on the road. This migratory lifestyle has obviously impacted his writing. On "Set the Speed," he wonders aloud, "Another day and I'm on the run/ set the speed to the morning sun/ got no money, I got nowhere to go/ sometimes I feel like I got nothing to show." During the slow and deliberate "Ballinger Cross," he sings, "Drive on further/ where the sky meets the earth/ wondering how long it can be." Although a single source of inspiration can become repetitive, it lends a certain cohesiveness to Dixie Witch's body of work. Like one long "Turn the Page," the album infuses the listener with a fleeting sense of departure and longing. Needless to say, Smoke & Mirrors is ideal for any road trip.
More than ever, Leal relinquishes the microphone to bassist Curt Christensen, thus making his drumming all the more impressive. These singing drummers are mere mortals, after all; their drumming has to become more simple come crooning time. Christensen's Lemmy-esque vocals lend a much needed bark to the more up-tempo songs on the album ("Thursday" and "Getaway"), and the lyrical interplay between the two on "Out in the Cold" is a much welcomed addition.
Quite simply, ZZ Top better call the U.S. Trademark Office. With Smoke & Mirrors, Dixie Witch could make one hell of a claim to the patent on the "Little ol' Band from Texas" label.
Zach HothornJune 19th, 2006www.prefixmag.com
This is Dixie WitchĂs 3rd record. I have the first but did not hear the 2nd. The band have progressed to a bit more melodic sound and less jamming but still have some killer riffs (Set the Speed) and they can rock like hell (Shoot the Moon, S.O.L.). The band has some more moody tracks with a real southern rock flavour as well. Last Call, the last track on the CD is an amazing instrumental with a guest Hammond player and long guitar solos. This track alone brought the review from a 3 to a 4! I think fans of the southern rock and Black Crowes would probably dig this more melodic and less hard hitting CD than the band has produced in the past.
If you dig: Grady, Black Crowes, Pride and Glory
ScottJune, 2006 (issue #35)www.lowcut.dk
The Cutting Edge
A tremendous change in sound greets the ears on Dixie WitchĂs new disc Smoke and Mirrors. Not only has the production gone up a notch (thanks to Joel Hamilton) but the songs are well crafted and memorable while still keeping the whole thing nice and heavy. This being the bandĂs third outing, itĂs interesting to note they are sounding less like Motorhead and more like Bachman Turner Overdrive with a southern twang. The guitars sound more structured, beefy and bad-ass. Give ˘Out in the Cold,÷ ˘Getaway÷ and ˘Thursday÷ a whirl, and youĂll hear the comparison. Huge riffs that propel over the top of a crashing rhythm section is clearly the order of the day, while a tighter fit justifies the trio taking three years to put this monster together.
Impressive is the way ˘Shoot the Moon÷ and ˘S.O.L.÷ kick in with drummer/singer Trinidad Leal determined to destroy his kit. His fills sew up the bass and snare like drying leather while his voice paints a dark, melodic hue. Bassist Curt Christenson is hot on his heels in the groove of ˘Getaway÷ and ˘Bridges.÷ The four-stringer lies down like Vermont molasses. Maturity is the key here and in the road-warn ruts of ˘Ballinger Cross,÷ we hear Clayton MillsĂ Sabbath-like dirge eating the soul. Whereas, ˘What you Want÷ complete with whiskey-bottle slide, gives a whole new meaning to dirty blues. Stick around for ˘Last Call,÷ the nine-minute opus that closes this mother out. One of the best Š70Ăs tracks recorded! ItĂs slow and easy, psychedelic and burned out with just enough organ/guitar jam to fill the air with the sweet leaf-smell of Capricorn Studios in Macon, Georgia.
Todd K. SmithMay 2nd, 2006www.thecutting-edge.net
The breathtaking countryside, laughing with friends, meeting new people, trading stories, sharing a brewski, playing small town bars; ah, life on the road as a touring band. Dixie Witch, too me, is the purest definition of rock ŠnĂ roll; no gimmicks here. It is music from the heart; music that hits home. This band makes me imagine what it would have been like to grow up in the 70sĂ when all the rock greats were earning their stripes. This three-piece out of Denton, Texas, shows us how fun and unforced music can and should be.
This is their third release on Small Stone Records, and they have never sounded better, so natural. Part rock, part blues, part country, Dixie Witch saddles up and doesnĂt look to be stepping off anytime soon. Think of early Aerosmith, lo-fi Motorhead, and even early ninties Pearl Jam, as heard on the track ˘Out in the cold.÷ ItĂs all about waking up after last nights bar gig, grabbing a beer to ease the pain, and sitting in a corner of the van with the guitar and writing yet another cathartic tune. Everyone deserves to hear this band, so what are you waiting for?
All Access Magazine
When you think of Texas trios, you think of ZZ Top, Grady and those road warriors known as Dixie Witch. After forming in the fall of 1999, the guys hit the road in 2000 and never looked back. Only to stop and record a 5 song demo, that attracted national attention. In 2001, they signed with a Texas label and released their debut ˘Into The Sun÷ CD. They ended up touring with Alabama Thunderpussy and Suplecs, destroying clubs in towns from coast to coast, with their amazing live show. WhatĂs really amazing is the fact that drummer Trinidad Leal not only bashes out a heavy beat, but he handles most of the lead vocals. Bassist Chris ˘CC÷ Christenson also sings as well. Add to this, the Texas chainsaw attack of axeman Clayton Mills and you get some of the hardest and dirtiest SoRock that Tejas has to offer. Finally, 2003 had DetroitĂs SmallStone label signing the band up and saw the release of ˘One Bird, Two Stones÷, only to be followed by their latest CD, ˘Smoke & Mirrors÷. With the help of some strong production from Joel Hamilton (Unsane) the CD sounds like it should. He has managed to capture the tightness of the band as a whole, like they were playing in the same room all at once. The opening track ˘Set The Speed÷ not only sets the speed, but picks up the pace, halfway through, ending with a blistering guitar solo. Sure thereĂs some speed, and songs like ˘S.O.L.÷ and ˘Gunfight÷ bring to mind Motorhead. But this band is all about mixing it up, like BBQ sauce and beer. At times some of the vocals on this CD sound like Monster Magnet. Remember itĂs not all about speed. Check out the slowed down blues of ˘Out In The Cold÷ or the Black Sabbath Black Sabbath groove of ˘Ballinger Cross÷. ThereĂs the mid tempo Southern feel of ˘Bridges÷, that leads into the long intro to ˘What You Want÷, a song that is covered in the smooth sauce of some thick Slide guitar. IĂm sure the song ˘Thursday÷ will have the crowd rocking at a club near you. How are these guys as musicians you may ask? Well, Dixie WitchĂs third CD comes to an end with the instrumental ˘Last Call÷. Thanks to Clayton Mills trippy wah pedal, not unlike Robin Trower, we are left wanting more. So look for Dixie Witch to bring their Texas magic to a club near you. In the meantime pick up ˘smoke & mirrors÷ and check out www.smallstone.com for more.
The RockerMarch 23rd, 2006www.allaccessmagazine.com
Daredevil Magazine (Germany)
This was also an album I was waiting for for a long time, cause I love their two previous releases "Into The Sun" and "One Bird, Two Stones"... Heavy-Rock how it should be. "Smoke & Mirrors" sets one on top... it's the step forward, the step which elevates Dixie Witch to the next level... one step nearer to the Heavy-Rock olympians. The style of Dixie Witch didn't change, but they've added more variety and Metal to their music... good move, cause now the whole thing turned out to a huge Heavy-Rock monster with songs that'll capture in the world of Dixie Witch. I think Dixie Witch made everything right on this album and it will be hard to top this. Monstrous Heavy-Rock with southern charm... highly recommended.
RBApril 17th, 2006www.daredevil.de
These dudes started out 5 or 6 years ago as a terrifying wall of black mud, but have since developed into a tight, cohesive southern rock band, albeit one so fuckinĂ heavy you sometimes feel like your chest is gonna collapse from the pressure. ˘Smoke and Mirrors÷, Dixie WitchĂs third album, is the most epic leg of their journey yet, a big brawling ball of cascading speed-boogie riffs and rolling fuzz. On tracks like ˘Out in the Cold÷ and ˘Getaway÷ DW almost sound like Monster Magnet at California Jam II, or something, as the sunbaked ŠDixieĂ fumes mix freely with space-streaking acid-fry metal, but mostly they just sound like a giant truck with Texas license plates bearing down on you at 125 MPH. Good shit, and with all the miles these road dogs have logged in, hard-won, too. Intensity in 356 cities, dude.
KMApril 4th, 2006www.sleazegrinder.com
Dixie Witch keep churning out the dirty southern rock n' roll on their newest effort. The production is a bit polished for my taste, I was hoping for something a little more heavy and raw sounding, but the songs are tight, and the guitars shred. "Ballinger Cross" is slow and has a touch of doom, definately a favorite. There's some damn fine pickin' on here, but it's a bit mild for my taste at the moment.
WolfieMarch 20th, 2006www.absolutmetal.com
When it comes to asskicking heavy rock & roll, Texas trio Dixie Witch simply dominates any stage it takes¨it's one of the best live bands on the underground crunch circuit. Its prior albums, while strong, haven't quite captured the best of the Witch. Smoke & Mirrors, however, cages the beast while allowing enough room between the bars for its claws to draw blood. Bassist Curt Christenson and guitarist Clayton Mills abuse their amps with advanced riffology, while Trinidad Leal beats his drums and opens his larynx with equal power. Yet, as loud and proud as the tracks are, the fury never overwhelms the band's ever-progressing songwriting¨melodies and dynamics share equal time with the roar. Smoke & Mirrors will be hard to top, but as long as Dixie Witch continues its upward swing, it will.
Michael TolandMarch 31st, 2006highbias.com
Do you wanna rock? Well, forget kiss. If you just want some bottom heavy, sloggin' through swamp but with punchy grooves, lots of muscle and even more attitude, plenty of distortion and Saliva'ish vocals, then you've come to the right place. Sort of a Southern rockishs sound is what you get from Dixie Witch, except that it's been dipped in a healthy swamp metal, Sabbath referencing coating. Thick thick thick, metal with the attitude and flavor of rock and roll (or rock and roll with the crunch of metal. While not leaning toward the psychedelic end of the doom spectrum, Dixie Witch nevertheless does well. They do what they do and there ain't nothing with rock and roll and a home-rolled in your mouth.
Kristofer UpjohnMarch 6th, 2006www.smnnews.com
Man, IĂm telling you folks, if this were, say, 1975, IĂm thinking that Dixie WitchĂs ˘Set The Speed÷ or ˘Out In The Cold÷ would light up rock radio playlists across this nation, slotted in with AerosmithĂs ˘Toys In The Attic÷, ZepĂs ˘Kashmir÷, and KissĂs ˘Rock N Roll All Nite÷. DJĂs wouldnĂt even have to be plied with coke and hookers from back slappinĂ A&R men. Maybe even a feature in a then-still-relevant Rolling Stone. Smoke & Mirrors is just that good. Even when DW are just average ű ˘Getaway÷ and ˘Bridges÷ for example, there is an absolutely smokinĂ guitar or drum break to salvage things.
But this is a different era, and it hasnĂt been kind to radio, Rolling Stone or heart-felt and honest rock nĂ roll. But you donĂt need me to remind you of that. Sorry if I bummed both of us out.
IĂve seen DW live twice, and they flat out smoke. Definitely a live band, honed on endless miles touring, sleeping and eating on the compassion of fans, playing smoky dives and generally paying dues the old fashioned way. But somehow, the sheer power and chemistry of live DW hasnĂt been captured on disc ű until now. IĂm not sure what happened, but Smoke & Mirrors finds the three Texas Titans at their bestÓ well, second to seeing them live that is. How does that fucking guy bang the shit out of his drums and sing like that at the same time?? Friggin aÓ
I could give you a play by play on each track, but my fingers are tired and my wifeĂs calling me. Rest assured that if you find a drummer, a bass player and a guitarist that not only have been genetically selected out to play Texas 70Ăs flavored hard rock nĂ roll AND have this kinda magic chemistry playing as one unit, God has truly smiled on you.
And I was all set not to like this. BarnesĂ innate negativism has been smote by GodĂs rock nĂ roll.
Chris BarnesMarch 5th, 2006www.hellridemusic.com
Delusions Of Adequacy
Dixie WitchĂs first two releases, 2001Ăs Into the Sun and 2003Ăs One Bird Two Stones, are both wonderful albums, but neither was a great overall representation of this Texas band. The discs failed to capture the groupĂs live show intensity, and therefore they simply served as a tide-over between tours. However, Dixie WitchĂs third effort, Smoke & Mirrors, not only captures the essence of the band, it also tightens the reins a bit as far as style and production.
As a longtime fan of this band, the first time I listened to Smoke & Mirrors I was blown away. While maintaining a decidedly ˘Southern÷ feel to the music, this trio has evolved away from the bluesy, stoner-rock of the first albums and landed solidly in hard-rock/metal territory. And this is the sound of the band's live shows - tight performances by all three members, tons of energy, and great vocals split between drummer Trinidad Leal (who takes on the majority share) and bass player Curt Christenson. More than five years of near constant touring has surely helped perfect the band's sound.
Much of the album focuses on the thick and heavy hard-rock Dixie Witch has become known for, including stellar tracks like ˘Set the Speed,÷ ˘S.O.L.,÷ and ˘Shoot the Moon÷ that showcase not only Christenson and LealĂs talents, but guitarist Clayton MillsĂ lightening-fast riffs as well. The guys still infuse plenty of sludgy, Southern rock into the album such as ˘Out in the Cold÷ and ˘What You Want,÷ but the great production here gives them much more solid footing. Dixie Witch even rounds out the 11-track album with a slow, bluesy instrumental aptly titled ˘Last Call.÷
Like the band's live show, Smoke & Mirrors is a constant assault from start to finish with no filler material. While Dixie WitchĂs other albums felt like second best to a live show, this one feels like having your own private gig. Although the sound has evolved over time, fans of a variety of types of music will likely dig this - particularly stoner-rock, blues-rock, and Southern rock. I still highly recommend seeing a Dixie Witch show, but Smoke & Mirrors more than does the trick.
Jennifer PattonFebruary 22nd, 2006www.adequacy.net
The third timeĂs the charm for Austin, TexasĂ Dixie Witch. Since they first released their debut back in 2001, this three-piece has been trying to capture their ferocious sound. Into the Sun had the heaviness but lacked the spontaneity. One Bird, Two Stones was a more accurate representation of what the band sounded like, but the end mix made them seem subdued and almost one-dimensional.
But with Smoke and Mirrors, the three-piece have managed to get a professional studio polish with the energy of their live performances (thanks to Joel Hamilton of PlayerĂs Club/Book of Knots fame). Songs like ˘Set the Speed,÷ ˘SOL,÷ and ˘What You Want÷ jump right out at you. The punch of Trinidad LealĂs drumming and Curt ChristensonĂs bass playing creates the perfect rhythm support for guitarist Clayton Mills. The overall sound is thick and balanced, the way the band sounds live.
Of course, this wouldnĂt matter worth a damn if the songs werenĂt there. But Dixie Witch again lay down some raucous southern grooves. On the faster side, there are the three mentioned above. They slow it down with ˘Out in the Cold,÷ which has a Into the Sun vibe, yet with the stronger sense of melody that cropped up on One Bird, Two Stones. As with their previous albums, the vocals are divided amongst Trinidad and Curt, with Trinidad (the stronger singer of the two) singing the majority. Both take a break on ˘Last Call,÷ the smoky, soulful instrumental that closes out the album. There ClaytonĂs guitar work takes the center, and his playing is nothing short of beautiful.
Hell, all three members of Dixie Witch play impeccably on Smoke and Mirrors. The albumĂs got great songs that are full of warmth. TheyĂve done an amazing job on this album. Recommended.
John PegoraroJanuary 29th, 2006www.stonerrock.com