Smoke & Mirrors (Small Stone)
by Brian Varney
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.