THE GAZETTE You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right

THE GAZETTE April 7, 1976


Dirk Hamilton
You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right

ABC D-920

Where do guys like this come from anyway? According to his bio, Dirk Hamilton grew up out in Stockton, California, and cut his teeth as a performer in campus coffee houses along the gilded San Francisco peninsula.
Somewhere along the way he acquired an ability for composing songs with a Ferlinghetti fancy and a Dylan skepticism. He learned to bend an engaging acoustic melody into fragments of joy, particles of pain and remnants of sweet relief. His vocals are gruff, grainy distillations of equal parts Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen spiced in a tender moment by shades of a pleading Rod Stewart.

Combine all of this talent with the genius and professionalism of Gary Katz's production, and you have one of the best debut albums by a singer-songwriter since John Prine's classic first effort. With all the confidence and artistry of a seasoned performer, Hamilton chisels out ten cuts of free form vinyl magic.

Each is a single source of vision and insight. He praises honesty ["She Don't Squash Bugs," "When She Kiss Ya' Like She Love (ya know she do)"]; spits in the eye of hypocrisy ("The Sweet Forever," "Ridin' On a Whale"); and grapples with the problem of self image ("Waterfall," "I Get To Feelin' ").

In "Grow A Rose" and "Sweet and Cold" he weaves melodic mazes of the languid ladies of love growing and casting their thorny roses in the teeth of a cold, mechanical environment. I have listened to this album about five times now and each time a new, naked nuance exposes its subtle harmonic flesh. It is this depth of feeling and creativity that separates this disc from its slick, commercial contemporaries.

If Dirk Hamilton gets any better as an artist, no doubt he will soon be doomed to ride the glossy covers of a future issue of Time or Newsweek. Don't wait for that to happen. Discover for yourself a rare blend of literate lyrics and uplifting music by a new artist destined to take his place among the innovators of the '70s.

Dirk Hamilton has class.

— Marris Johnson