Album Review : ZZ Ward – “Dirty Shine”

In the gritty heartland of contemporary music, where many voices get lost in the glitz and glamor, ZZ Ward emerges as a beacon of authenticity with her latest release, “Dirty Shine”. It’s not just an album; it’s a renaissance of a gifted artiste, unchained and unrestrained.

Upon the first beat of “Welcome to Dirty Shine,” ZZ makes it clear: she’s charting her course, shedding the trappings of major labels and the pressure to conform. You’re not just listening to songs; you’re peeling back layers of an artist’s journey of self-discovery.

Her independent streak shines brilliantly in tracks like “Ride or Die” and “On One”. They resonate with a pulsating mix of blues and hip-hop, two genres that have clearly molded her but now seem to be articulated with a fresh zest. “On One,” especially, is an anthem of empowerment, an ode to newfound strength in motherhood.

Yet, it’s not just about the music. With “Dirty Shine”, the narrative comes alive with cinematic flair. Collaborating with her brother, Adam Ward, the visual storytelling — particularly with the mini-movies for tracks like “On One” and “Forget About Us” — is vivid, a juxtaposition of past musical influences with futuristic storytelling.

“Friends Like These” is a testament to Ward’s profound bond with the blues. The track feels like a smoky room in an underground blues bar, with ZZ’s voice winding its way around listeners like tendrils of sweet tobacco smoke. Contrastingly, “OverdoZZe” is a rollercoaster, deftly juggling genres, demonstrating the audacity of her musical experiments.

Her deep roots in blues, imbibed from her father’s rich collection of iconic titles and further nurtured by performing in his band, intersect fascinatingly with hip-hop, a love she inherited from her brother. These intersections are what make “Dirty Shine” an intriguing listen. It’s like watching an artist paint on a canvas with colors from two different palettes, yet making them blend seamlessly.

Her identity, bound intricately with her fedora, is another facet that the album brings out. More than a fashion statement, it stands for her transformation — from a nervous performer to a confident artist. And in this album, you can feel that confidence permeate every note.

Tracks like “North Bank Blues” and “Cut Me Loose” show her range, from melancholic melodies to foot-tapping beats. Meanwhile, collaborations with artists like Aloe Blacc in “Tin Cups” further elevate the album, providing nuances and depths that make it a rich auditory experience.

To label “Dirty Shine” as just an album would be a gross understatement. It’s a celebration — of freedom, of authenticity, of musical genius. ZZ Ward hasn’t just produced tracks; she’s crafted stories, emotions, and experiences.

In “Dirty Shine”, the dirt is real, raw, and rich, making the shine all the more dazzling. This isn’t just a musical feast; it’s an assertion, a declaration, and most importantly, an invitation to experience music in its purest, most passionate form.