Thursday, December 22, 2022

Mudlow - Bad Turn

Mudlow are a trio.  Not a power trio, mark you.  If what you’re after is butt-shaking blues-rock, with lots of guitar jiggery-pokery and lyrics about lascivious women, then move along buddy.  Mudlow are on a different, more winding road with Bad Turn.
Listen to tracks like the opening ‘Lower Than Mud’ and, later, ‘One Bad Turn’, and you won’t really need to be told that Tom Waits is a big influence.  ‘Lower Than Mud’ has an [Explicit] label slapped on it, which is a laugh, because I can only make out about half of what guitarist and vocalist Tobias Tester is singing, and certainly can’t decipher any four-letter mischief he might be
Mudlow - just your average everyday party animals
Pic by Jonny Wilson
dealing out.  Not that I mind, because his growling, cackling Waitsian sound-over-sense brings a gloriously ragged edge to this dipping, looping, low-key boogie. ‘One Bad Turn’, meanwhile, evokes Waits in more balladeering mode.  It’s a downbeat monologue, like a late night drinker telling his tale to a barkeep who ain’t listening. “One bad turn, outside the house I used to own / Inside the yard’s overgrown, spreading grass and weeds I used to mow,” go the opening lines, setting the tone, against a sparse backdrop of pricking guitar, gently ticking drums, and restrained bass.
The boogie ain’t just any old two-step.  North Mississippi hill country vibes infuse the perky, twitching grooves of ‘Further Down The Road’, while Tester rolls out images like a tour guide rolling down the Main Street of some seedy town in a beat-up Oldsmobile, pointing out “Good ol’ boys getting teenage girls loaded in the local saloon”.  Subdued at first, it gradually gathers momentum, rattling and scraping its way towards a serrated, scratchy solo from Tester.  ‘Red Rock’ gives this hypnotic groove a modern lift, with a rolling, offbeat rhythm from drummer Matt Latcham and rumbling bass from Paul Pascoe laying the foundations for a fuzzy, Stylophone-like stutter of a guitar riff, coming over like the Black Keys, with a jolt of electricity making Tester yowl every time the chorus comes around.
There’s a vaguely Latin air to the skipping rhythm and prickling guitar of ‘The Last Rung Down To Hell’, backing the semi-spoken narration, until they shift into a more urgent gear to relate the final descent into the darkness.  And the following ‘So Long Lee (Redux) is another uptempo affair, scooting along in jagged fashion while Tester lets loose a whooping, yelping vocal.
Along the way both ‘Clean Slate’ and ‘Crocodile Man’ cleave more to brooding, murky atmosphere, the former with meandering guitar lines over similarly roving bass, the latter with a hushed vocal and more twinkling guitar over rolling bass and a tapping rhythm until they up the ante for a twanging, discordant guitar break and closing exclamations of “Lord have mercy on me”.  And the closing ‘Sundown’ is an acoustic-sounding collage of images from the end of a day, a mother “picking up her kid, he’s all fingernails and dirt” and urging him to “get out of this ol’ town”, all anchored by minimalist tripping drums and just enough bass.
Are some of those rippling, circling guitar lines a bit samey?  Maybe.  But Mudlow are really all about drawing you into a mood, a place, a grimy, dust-swept scene, and considering they come from Brighton, the sense of back roads America is pretty convincing.   Bad Turn is an album that fell down the back of the Blues Enthused sofa earlier in the year.  I wish I’d rescued it sooner.
Bad Turn is out now on Whisky Preachin’ Records [vinyl] and Juke Joint 500 [CD], and can be ordered here.

No comments:

Post a Comment