It has been an ongoing policy of mine to stay away from album reviews. I rarely read them, because I like to form my own opinions. And I don’t write reviews, because I worry that if I do this service for bands, I will start to get a flood of requests (and by flood, I mean 1-2 a year). I often have a difficult time saying no when people want something from me.
It is my belief that music reviews should generally be done by musicians. Who better to write about the intricacies of a song, let alone a full album? But when tempted by early access to the latest album by Muddy Ruckus, Bellows to Mend just released on iTunes yesterday, I couldn't pass up the chance to critique it. While I don't believe in personally writing album reviews, I have nothing holding me back from being a critic.
A good critic should know a little something about which they are critiquing. And I believe that I have a good understanding of Muddy Ruckus' music. After all,] I have seen them play a few times over the last couple years, I have interviewed and photographed them, I listen on occasion in the car and on the treadmill, and I liked their past work enough to make Muddy Ruckus the first band that I ever personally booked for a show.
Now, does their latest album Bellows to Mend measure up to their previous two works albums, which I already view as a work of art? I would say of the three records, the latest leans more towards the Americana, folk and blues genres, while being less of the punk blues and alt-folk of the past. But that isn't to say that they have gone soft or ditched their edge. It just seems that they are given their fan base more of what they want. An album with a lot of gritty heart and soul that is easy to sing along to.
If you are still looking for a little edginess, the first piece that comes to my mind is the 11th and final song of the album. Wreck of the Hesperus is an instrumental track that can't really be labelled without the use of the word "alt". It starts out making me think of the movie Young Guns III, one of my all-time favorites. Now this song isn't meant to resemble a western, but it is about a shipwreck from the same time frame as the Wild West. Then the music changes it up a little and pulls me into what felt like a Moroccan trance, soon speeding up to a slightly grungier beat and teleports me to 1992 Seattle for a brief moment. You can't go wrong with those melodies fused together. Even after a few minutes of complete silence, I still felt the hairs standing up on the back of my neck.
If the album finishes like that, you must be wondering how it started. Well, you will be hit right off the bat with a deep blues guitar, driving you on your way to New Orleans. In Restless Ryder, you will feel what it must be like to take a tour south finding your soul with frontman Ryan Flaherty and drummer Erika Stahl.
One of my favorite things about a typical Muddy Ruckus song is how Ryan's bluesy guitar riffs can catch you moving your head side to side like a metronome, then all of a sudden Erika will bang you up with some quick drum beats and really get you moving. Even those who aren't easily impressed by a folksy ba, are very likely to come out of this with a positive feeling. A great example of this musical transition is in the beginning of Along the Sun and the Rain. These two talented musicians combine to take a nice folksy Woody Guthrie song and skillfully cover it into a hard blues rhythm.
If you are longing for their punk blues, Everlasting Buzz would be the song that I see most fitting into that category. You want Americana or folk? Then you've got The River, Sweet Unknown and their title track Bellows to Mend.
Muddy Ruckus has been a very versatile band in their previous albums. This duo has been difficult to pigeon hole into a specific genre and Bellows to Mend is no exception. If you like many varieties of indie music, the couple from Auburn, Maine calling themselves Muddy Ruckus, has put forth another album that you are absolutely going to love.
About the author: In addition to Vokuhila, LLC, Jesse L. Medford is the Owner/Producer/Investor of a few festivals and festival related businesses, as well as a member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. He also has a full-time telecommunications management job, volunteers with a few charities and owns a handful of other businesses. Jesse lives in Lakeville, MA with his wife and two teenage children.
Jesse has a passion for the music industry. He worked at his first concert in 1999 at Marilyn Manson's Beautiful Monsters Tour. Jesse holds a Bachelor of Science in Management from Bridgewater State University.