23 December 2014


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Cover photo by the great Casey Weber
   Mudlow believes in the darkness, the nightshade of black and blues at twilight, and the tension of breath in the space between.

   They know the mystery of a song's mood brings about a sense of place. The song Minnesota Snow is such a song. You can feel the threat. The menace of blizzard winds. A blizzard of snow, or a tempest of violence? Or both. You're the witness.

"Let out some air from the tires, rock it back and forth, Needles on empty, heater's on full."

   That's a place nobody wants to be in, on-the-verge of lost desperation. All you can do is hope and pray you didn't really fuck it all up this time. It's an apt M.O. for most Mudlow songs. The world is gone shit side up y'all, but it ain't gonna always be that way baby, and it ain't ever gonna be without the boogie. It's nothing without that Mudlow style.

   Let's take it down to Stubb's Yard.

   This is where Mudlow drives us through their North Mississippi, their Texas, their Detroit demolition. This is high steppin', steel-toe sliding, finger tracing, hand clappin', face-slappin' downtown rock city boogie music. At 2:28 it's the shortest song of the three, but that's all it needs.

   The third joint of this set is Codename Toad.

   Something untoward is going on but hell, nothing's illegal until you get caught, right? It's a dirty rockin' thing having something to do with guns (a walnut grip Baretta by name) a mohair suit, a clear pint, plenty of cocaine, some weed and a shootout. It sounds like a breakneck, backroad trip from Peacehaven to Small Dole, down Devil's Dyke Road, to Shoreham and Saltdean. Listening to side one of ZZ Top's Tejas loud on repeat, taking that last midnight run...praying...Mr. State Trooper...

   It's a perfect example of a Mudlow song that could be the basis for a movie. Each song acts as a vignette of British crime, grime, and time. It's the Brighton breakdown of AC/DC'd dirty soul blues, hard loaded swagger, and a lot of whiskey, cigarettes and well-thumbed paperbacks.

   It's only been two years since Mudlow released their second album, Sawyer's Hope, but for some reason it seems longer to me. With each release, I get sucked into this Mudlow soundtrack for awhile, where the streets are usually wet and shining with street-lamp glare, everybody has a hard noir story, and the music is polished, flat black and chrome.

   This three song set is saxophone-free (a real switch for the band, which utilised the sax as a tone-setter) but does feature cello on the title track. Mudlow bassist and recording engineer Paul Pascoe's already quality sonics have been refined in those two years, and the sense of space, groove, and breath, always a Mudlow hallmark, is accentuated to the point that on headphones you'll think you're in the room. Pascoe's sense of tension and drama is put to use by Tobias Mudlow's funky, funky, country jazz punk city blues guitar, its strong, inventive plucking, crossed with a fine sense of mood really plays a great part in setting the band's sound apart. It's something that was there, but not apparent when the sax was used, often as a co-lead instrument. Matt Latcham is Mudlow's drummer. Solid, creative, and holding up the bottom while dancing across his drums with one hand in the pocket, the other on the gas. His funky foot locks in tight with the bass and guitar, and is crucial to the noir soundtrack feel of the Mudlow sound. Precise, economical, country yet funky.

   The Minnesota Snow ep is another exceptional release by a great band. It shows continued growth of depth, sonically, instrumentally, and lyrically. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if I'm reading a collection of short stories by Tobias Mudlow at some point in the future. Whatever happens, this band will continue to evolve. It's personal blues-infected music with emotional heft, and a strong artistic vision.

   It's the music from the closing credits of your favorite movie. It's the song you listen to as you drive off the dock at the end of the chase scene, it's the song that plays as the sun rises over the weed-choked city cemetery, it's the sound you hear as you run through the concrete jungle of southern (UK) bars and clip-joints. Welcome back to Mudlow country. We've missed you.

   I understand this is to be the first in a series of digital releases, on the road to vinyl. I can't wait.


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