IN A COMMUNITY that gets worked up by the dreaded "transplant" quotient, a band like Dirty Revival is a flag-bearer for Portland's native eclectic nature. Raised in the Rose City, vocalist Sarah Clarke attended Grant High School, along with guitarist/emcee Evan "evv'n'flo" Simko and drummer Terry Drysdale. Blue Cranes bassist Jon Shaw joined on bass, and keyboardist Karl Ludwigsen was added to the fold as well. The core band performs with a revolving cast of horn players and backup singers, many of whom Clarke, Simko, and Drysdale played with in high school jazz band, or are friends of friends—a regional stew that's yielded a fun-loving explosion of feel-good tunes in the form of the self-described "soul-hop" band's debut album.
"We weren't really sure what the music was supposed to be or what we wanted to do with it," says Clarke. "That really came together with us experiencing each other's tastes."
During this year's PDX Pop Now!, Dirty Revival's festival-opening performance set a high standard for those to follow, as Clarke's booming vocal range matched the tightness of the ensemble's rhythm and groove, setting the scene for an obviously well-matched musical and personal chemistry.
"We hit a stride kind of recently, to be honest," says Clarke. "The last month or two, every player is getting better and better."
The self-titled album's opening song, "Dirty Love," is indicative of the band's directness. In a high-energy romp, Clarke's sultry vocals soar over a groove of Roots-inspired hip-hop and soul that more or less introduces the band's ethos: They're here to make you move. Clarke's R&B chops and Simko's rapid-fire rhymes volley over lines like, "We're here for enjoyment, no time for no sittin'/Get on your feet while we deliver."
Dirty Revival's passion for the music is addictive, and even if Portland's summer has overstayed its welcome, at least there's a monster of a sunny funk/soul/groove band with which to enjoy its last gasps.
"We accidentally created this set of songs that expresses who we are as people," says Clarke of the roundabout way the album unfolded. "When you sit down to play with people you love so much who make the music you love so much, it's really hard not to be thrilled with every second of it."