The moveable feast that is Muddy Summers and The Dirty Field Whores are back with their third album and another line up change. Recorded in true DIY style through four laptops in different parts of the country, this is their first one with the hard-working and talented multi-instrumentalist, Ren Stedman.
All bands, all artists, should progress, must develop and change if they are not to stagnate and continue to comfortably phone in more of the same. As William Blake once said, ‘expect poison from the standing water’. This album is born of a band who have flexed their creative muscles so fiercely that they have grown wings.
There is an older, wiser, and more layered perspective than previous albums. It has taken a seat at the back of a smokey room and quietly observed the world. Able to clearly see societal divisions, it lays out how arbitrary, unnecessary, and damaging they are to all of us. Advocating harmony and tolerance, both sides of the coin are given voice, and a dove is offered in return for the same.
The musical landscape is bigger, broader, and more nuanced than hitherto. We have gypsy folk, country, and urban/country fusion. As a complete sucker for a waltz tempo, I was delighted to hear it on more than one track, and played to great effect in ‘Epilogue’, swaying drunkenly and hitting dizzy heights, like being on an out-of-control fairground ride.
What I thought to be Spanish guitar is actually sneakily just your normal guitar, very cleverly played by one Ren Stedman, who also brings a very welcome piano into the mix. The mournful keyboards and minor chord fiddle on ‘Call Off The Dogs’ are a feast for the ears.
‘You Keep Coming’ is gleefully bawdy, and had me grinning from ear to ear. This is without doubt the subsequent crowd anthem to ‘Get Off My Tits’, and one that should be sung at earsplitting volume! Coining a whole new word, mistressbation, it’s not only funny, it has a serious point to make about female sexuality, the policing, the joy, and autonomy of it.
You’re not supposed to have favourites, but I do, unapologetically. There are two absolute stand-out tracks for me. Drenched in poetry worthy of Mr Cohen himself, ‘Tooth’ and ‘Epilogue’ are songs that I could listen to over and over again. And I did. Because as with all good poetry, there are complex layers of interpretation, more meaning is wrought from each listen, and they are aurally sumptuous. Metaphor and allegory are used to great effect in Tooth, and are woven through a waltz tempo, via the strings of beautifully wrought banjo and mournful violin.
In sum, then, I would argue that this is their best album so far. It represents a huge leap forward creatively, and when you consider how it was recorded, its cohesion is deeply impressive.
With non-judgmental lessons for us all, a smattering of role reversal, satire, raucousness and reclamation of autonomy, as well as fistfuls of musical and lyrical talent, this album can hold its head up high and take up space, and I recommend you get yourselves a copy.