There seems to be a swell of Americana coming out of Birmingham (UK, not Alabama) at present, what with My Darling Clementine (though, admittedly they’ve since relocated to Manchester), Another Thread and Hannah Johnson and the Broken Hearts, and now, here’s another. Formed around Dan Finnemore and T-Bird Jones, it also features and guitarist Tommy Hughes and former Pop Will Eat Itself/Bentley Rhythm Ace member Richard March alongside contributions from Joni Coyne on vocals and, here, Stew Webb on keys, Sam Wooster on horns and Stewart Johnson, from the Broken Hearts, on pedal steel.
Muck is, in fact, their second album as a band (Finnemore and Jones having previously released material as Swampmeat) and the most overtly country styled material yet, although, having said that, the first number, the shuffling ‘Be Here To Love Me’, borrows its descending guitar riff from the opening of J Geils Band’s ‘Centrefold’ while the track itself has a hint of Dylan about it.
Again built around tumbling chords and steady drum beat coloured with pedal steel, ‘Mother’s Lies’ brings on the horns for a Texicali feel, heading back into crunchier, guitar riffing Drive By Truckers territory with the midtempo ‘If You Want Me To’ and kick up a flurry of dust on the urgent drive of ‘Over Your Head’
Keeping it moving, the equally catchy ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’ is the sort of punchy rock n roller The Stones might have swaggered through in their country fantasies, though probably leans more to the rockier side of The Jayhawks and perhaps a tint of Boyce and Hart’s country foundations on some of their Monkees hits.
By way of a switch, horns back in action and guitar set to twang, ‘The Ballarat Ghost’ is an instrumental conjuring a cinematic Western vision of mounted riders travelling through the mesas and then there’s another swerve of sound into ‘Baby Made Her Plans’ which, again streaked by Johnson’s steel is a softly sung, gently rolling cosmic country number that calls to mind classic Dan Penn and the best work of fellow UK Americana acts such as Case Hardin and Southern Companion
‘Hope I’m Wrong’ is another riff-driven swagger designed to get the crowds stomping along with ‘Friends On The Floor’ and its loose-limbed guitar and bass keeping the momentum and the melody in top gear, heading to the end with guitar-slinging rock n roller ‘Foggy Notion’ where Creedence and Jerry Lee are the bartenders
It winds up with dobro shimmering intro across the clip clop trotting ‘Sleazy Rider’ where, Coyne on harmonies, their John Prine affections positively glow, a fine parting shot to a very fine album indeed. Muck in.
Artists’ website: https://www.facebook.com/swampmeatfamilyband/
‘Mother’s Lies’ – official video: