Dry Country Crooks put a little punk in their mix

Think Johnny Cash meets Social Distortion, old-school country (Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings), rock ‘n’ roll with a hint of rockabilly and punk.

Think Dry Country Crooks tonight in Everett (and Saturday in Stanwood), bringing music from the band’s latest roadhouse-friendly CD, “When Hearts Break.”

The band went into the project with the mindset of an edgier rock and punk sound, a change from the first two CDs (“The One That Got Away” and “Wrong Side of the Tracks”), both taking a more moderate country-rock approach.

“This one has more of an edge to it, more of a punk influence,” said vocalist-guitarist Vinny Dickinson.

He and his guitar player, Paul Becker, were in a punk rock band for several years.

“We burned out on it and couldn’t listen to what was on radio at the time. Then I started listening to AM instead of FM stations (and found) an old-school country channel that struck a nerve. I started writing country songs and decided to change directions.”

Enter Dry Country Crooks.

Dickinson writes the band’s songs, usually starting from a lyrical line, then expanding it into a verse and finding a melody.

“I’ll get home at end of day with three, four pieces of scrap paper in my back pocket … then sit down with a beer and figure it out. If it takes too much time, or it’s a struggle, I’ll abandon it within 15, 20 minutes. If it doesn’t flow freely, it’s not meant to be.”

Dickinson was originally exposed to music from his acoustic guitar-playing father, and then went through most of the school years playing the sax, followed by bass with funk and blues bands.

Then he picked up the acoustic guitar and started writing songs.

“Our music has blue-collar roots and we’re all blue-collar, working-class guys,” said Dickinson, a small-engine mechanic by day.

“We’re pretty honest; we sing about things that we know and that seems to translate pretty well. People seem to relate to it: love, death, addiction, everything people deal with on a daily basis.”

The final cut on “When Hearts Break” is “Your Love Dear Lord,” written over a three-year period.

“That song reflects what I was going through when I got divorced, living on couches and sleeping in my truck and drinking and using a bit more than I should be.

“I had to deal with all that stuff and at the same time try to be a good dad and get to work on time and handle everything emotionally.

“It’s a kick in the teeth when divorce happens and you don’t see your daughter every day and you’re starting all over. My daughter (Hazel, age 10) sings harmonies on that. It’s my sincere reflection of a very desperate time.”

Dry Country Crooks will take a five-month break at the start of 2009 to rejuvenate and rest.

“We’ve never had more than three weeks off in a row in seven years,” he said.

So catch them while you can.

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