Album Review: ZZ Ward – Dirty Shine

ZZ Ward is a Los Angeles, USA-based singer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, video director, record label owner, miliner and new mother who blends alternative pop, blues and hip hop in her sound. She’s just caught my attention thanks to her new album, named for a mantra in her community. It’s called Dirty Shine.

By Graeme Smith

For fans of ZZ Ward, “dirty shine” means being your authentic self, imperfections and all, and its this concept that runs through her new album. Split from the major label she was once part of, ZZ now records independently, backed by her loyal fans and supportive family. A woman of many talents, as well as creating music, ZZ also handmakes and sells fedoras (a trademark of hers), and creates mini-movies with her filmmaker brother Adam Ward, including the music videos for tracks on Dirty Shine.

The album opens with Welcome to Dirty Shine, a brooding and atmospheric instrumental introduction that sets the scene for what’s to come before Ride or Die, featuring VIC MENSA, gets things going proper with a catchy and bluesy pop number. Its combination of sung and rapped vocals instantly sets it apart from the crowd. Fadeaway gives us an insatiable, dark yet vibrant groove before On One, featuring Jean Deaux, provides an early highlight. Its rousing percussion underpins its anthemic message and its mix of blues and hip hop feels wonderfully unique.

Slow Hum Hymnal is a short, experimental interlude leading into Dead or Alive. A track that doesn’t quit, its pop rock drives things along while sultry lyrics are delivered by expressive vocals. Forget About Us is another highlight, with a simmering verse and explosive, empowering chorus.

Friends Like These is bold blues with a country rock swagger. Baby Don’t is captivatingly moody and comes complete with some catchy guitar riffs. North Bank Blues is a harmonica-laden vignette that leads into the sauntering OverdoZZe. Its unique blend of traditional and modern elements makes it another highlight.

Cut Me Loose is a pleasingly-textured anthem. Tin Cups features the legendary Aloe Blacc and slows things down with a soulful and hard-hitting country folk number before Don’t Let Me Down closes the album with some powerful, heart-rendering country pop.

ZZ Ward is a cut above and Dirty Shine is a statement of an album. Fans of pop music will absolutely love it, but there’s such a rich blend of genres in it that just about everyone will find something to enjoy about it. What a great album!

Dirty Shine was produced by Oscar and Grammy-award winning producer Mike Elizondo, Grammy-winning writer and producer Jason Evigan, the Grammy-nominated Dave Bassett, hip hop producer S1, and the alternative rock producer duo of Mark Jackson & Ian Scott, as well as Oscar, Grammy and Emmy-winning composer Ludwig Göransson. The album is out now via Dirty Shine Records. You can check it out below.