''We never broke up,'' Dressy Bessy singer/guitarist Tammy Ealom says on the occasion of the release of KINGSIZED, her band's first new album in seven years. ''It was never our intention to drop out, it just sort of happened. We were dealing with life, but we never stopped making music.''
''We didn't quit,'' agrees guitarist John Hill, Ealom's bandmate of nearly two decades. ''But we did go through a period of reexamining what we were doing, and we came out of it a better and stronger band.''
Indeed, the 13-song KINGSIZED makes it clear that, nearly 20 years into their career, Dressy Bessy are making some of their most compelling and accomplished music. Such melodically infectious, lyrically barbed new tunes as ''Lady Liberty,'' ''Make Mine Violet'' and the anthemic title track are potent examples of the band's uncanny ability to wrap Ealom's personally-charged, pointedly subversive lyrics in sparkling, irresistibly catchy songcraft.
In addition to showcasing the band's musical chemistry, KINGSIZED also draws upon the talents of a wide assortment of friends, admirers, and contemporaries. R.E.M.'s Peter Buck adds distinctive 12-string guitar on ''Lady Liberty'' and ''Cup 'O Bang Bang,'' while legendary Pylon frontwoman Vanessa BriscoeHay adds her voice to ''Get Along (Diamond Ring).'' Minus 5/Young Fresh Fellows mastermind Scott McCaughey plays keyboards on ''Make Mine Violet'' and ''57 Disco.''
KINGSIZED also features an assortment of notable guest bassists as well, including Eric Allen of The Apples In Stereo, Jason Garner of the Polyphonic Spree and The Deathray Davies, Mike Giblin of Split Squad and fabled punk progenitor Andy Shernoff of The Dictators.
''We've always been a really self-contained band, and not the kind of band to have a million guest stars,'' Ealom notes. ''But losing a member freed us up to try different things and bring in different people, who came up with things that were different from what we'd come up with on our own. I went ahead and recorded some scratch bass lines for the songs on the album, and then we asked various people to play, and it worked out perfectly.''
Now that they're back in action with some of their strongest music to date, Dressy Bessy is happy to be back at work. ''I feel like we're just starting to get good at what we do,'' Ealom states. ''We've had a lot of time to hone in our sound, knowing what we want to sound like and figuring out what we need to do to get that. I'm really excited about the future.''
''We actually kind of know what we're doing now,'' adds Hill with a chuckle. ''We used to always be flying by the seat of our pants, but we're better players, Tammy is a better singer, and we're a better band. I think we've recorded the best album that we ever have, so our plan now is to just get out there and rock, then keep on rocking. We need our fans and we feel like they need us too.''