It feels like it’s been a long time coming, but like Xmas, when it finally arrives, it brings lots of lovely special things to nice boys and girls. Not that Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores profess to be Christian celebrants or “nice girls and boys”. No. – they just love creating things to enjoy; and Psychopaths and Other Tails, the fluid project’s (the terms “band” and “group” just don’t fit this ensemble) new album certainly hits that mark.
Psychopaths and Other Tails is the fifth full album to be birthed of the Whores’ music tent, and like all its predecessors, its midwife is a collaboration of artists. The singular consistency to survive, and drive, the quintet of albums is lead vocalist Gail, she of the Something Else renown. While her voice may be central to the Whores’ sound, she is far from musical ring mistress. The Whores as a concept has always been about fluidity, creativity and inclusion. Other band members have come and gone. The swing-laden, folk-infused, calypso-tinted and radical-verse-laden has rode a roller-coaster of its own making; but something new has definitely been thrown into the mix of this cake and it tastes sweet, if not perfectly formed.
It’s 18 months since the Whores released From Seeds, which was the first time Lizzie Morris, a now regular member, recorded with them. Her fiddle playing really lifted the sound on the last album, which was no mean feat given the delight of its predecessor, Seeing Red and Black, a contender for one of the finest, least-known albums of all time in my opinion. Lizzie has grown in stature as bowstress since then, and it’s evidenced here. There’s a strength in her confidence that goes way beyond flirting with and embellishing Aimee Bee’s Cajon and Gail’s stick bass and baritone uke. She’s playing second fiddle to no one with that bow.
The most recent addition to the assemblage comes in the form of one Ren Stedman. Whether he sticks around or not remains to be seen; I for one hope he never leaves. Ren’s almost classical Spanish guitar has opened up the Whores’ sound that seems to have infected the others like some sort of freedom virus. You can feel the way the melodica, percussion, fiddle and a wide variety of other instruments bounce off each other like never before – they are having fun and its shows.
The album kicks off with Not OK, a galloping waft of a summer breeze that has irresistible foot-tappingitis. Here, we get the first evidence of the new sound, with delicate harmonies that make you want to kick back and pass round the cider.
Bank transports you, via Ren’s guitar, to an open-air bar in Grenada where Lizzie’s strings fill the air with laments while Aimee keeps the pony clip-clopping along at a pace just this side of it perspiring.
Here’s a prediction, You Keep Coming is going to be a bit of a singalong anthem this summer. Lyrically it’s not one for the kids, how could it be with Gail advocating mistressbation? It dips in and out of a hill-billy front porch and a seedy Berlin nightclub with its catchy refrains and bluegrass strings. It’s an onanist’s anthem to singalong to and no mess!
I’ve been listening to the Whores for three years or so now and one thing I never expected to hear on one of their tracks was piano, but that’s what opens Call Off The Dogs. Ren tickles those ivories with a gentle deftness that underscores the whole song. Lizzie and Aimee’s harmonies would not be amiss in a gospel choir, lending a softness that balances out the acidity of Gail’s lyrics.
Hi-Viz is a collective up-yours to over-zealous festival stewards. So, it’s hardly any surprise that the core of the throng is joined by Cara Means Friend, along with Ash, Aaron & Brian from Slack Mallard on vocals. There are no prisoners taken here as Gail’s vocals taken centre stage in what is a prime example of what all Whores’ fans have come to expect from the no holds barred response to misused authority of any description.
With Tooth, we are treated to a banjo (Stedman again) infused lullaby. On occasion it feels like it’s a bit too overlaid, but I suspect it will be a grower. It’s here that you get a glimpse of how this album was put together. Recorded separately in four different places by each artist and then brought together in a very DIY manner. It has an honest authenticity that shines through the unpolished veneer, but that is the essence of the Whores’ sound and to have it feel any other way would be simply wrong.
Old Elvis lyrically hints at a slightly melancholic homage to lost childhoods and tortured parenting. Musically it feels like it could do with running off through a wild wood or wind-blown wheat field now and then, but we’ll just have to settle for strolls down country lanes and mischief on waste grounds while our political masters do their best to restrain our children.
It’s perhaps the most ironic feeling to suggest that Gail should be more bitter in tone to make a song work better. Maybe she’s mellowing, who knows, but Glass Houses sounds like a song she would have spat out two albums back. Perhaps this is evidence of a more balanced sound that is coming from the quartet? Either way, the lyrics burn as they usually do with a poetic fire which may yet get stoked a little when played live.
The Whores have consistently recorded albums with one or two really stand out tracks, songs with their own identities outside of the album, Reasons is one of those. The added reverb on vocals and fiddle make this track sound like it’s being sung from some dark place; it has that skin-tingling quality that makes you want and not want to listen to it again.
The banjo returns for Parody, another social critique of our failing political systems. Aimee’s backing vocals sometimes get lost in the mix on this one, which is a shame, as it has all the makings of a stormer. It could be suffering from a lack of attention that the method of recording the album engendered. I would not be surprised if this song is revisited and reproduced in the future.
The penultimate track of the album, Nice Arse, is a clever inversion of misogynistic cat-calling that begs to be played loud, preferably on every pub jukebox. It jingles and jangles along as the banjo and fiddle bump and grind with each other interspersed with the titular catcall. They say humour is the best way to get a hard point across, well the humour is there, the point is strong, the jury is out on whether or not the intended recipients will get the message.
Epilogue ends the album with a Balkan Gypsy sway that 3 Daft Monkeys would be proud to have produced. It then waltzes off into the middle of the dance floor, its skirts swirling and spinning as it goes. The fiddle scampers around like a drunken mouse, taking us left and right, it calls at the end as if refusing to leave – and then the song ends, leaving you craving for more.
The last three Whores’ albums paint a portrait of a project in transition. The origin of the sound is still grounded firmly in a masala of folk, punk and swing but some musical chef has thrown some light jazz seasoning in there along with a hint of classical guitar. The guitar strumming seems to have been replaced by more articulate string play while the percussion indulges itself in some scat beats that are quite delightful. With 12 tracks on the album, it could be argued that the Whores are being over generous and maybe a track could be dropped, but which one is anyone’s choice.
There’s a relaxed, almost at ease feel to Psychopaths and Other Tails that feels a bit all grown up, I suspect this is down to how well the three core members and one new addition feel about expressing themselves together. This is one of those albums you will come to love after several plays, it will grow on you like a comfy pleasant fungus. Yes, it’s a bit warts and all in its production values, but it’s the Whores, what you see is what you get. Buy it, play it, you won’t regret it.
Graham Parker – Macstock
When Gail told me that most of the songs here had not been played together before recording and that this album had been recorded live DIY style in four different parts of the country, I thought ‘Well, that’s interesting….’
Then I recalled that The Clash recorded their first album in less than three weeks with minimal rehearsals and a tight budget and that turned out pretty well….
So, just how did psychopaths and other tails turn out ? Well, the first thing that struck me was the very high quality of musicianship on this album. Gail had assembled a great group of musicians with the multi-talented – multi instrumentalist Ren Stedman showcasing his many skills, Lizzie Morris from Morris and Watson picking up fiddle duties and Aimee Bee taking care of percussion and some backing vocals. Also supporting on some backing vocals those lovely chaps from Slack Mallard. The result is a collection of excellent songs that put me just a little in mind of The Antiquated and the Arcane album by 3 Daft Monkeys in style. In my opinion that’s a great album, so that is certainly no bad thing at all.
Now, it is not my intent to give an in-depth critique of every song on this fine album, but rather an attempt to give an overall feel for the album. However, one cannot do that without mentioning a few of the songs on offer here….
Things get underway with ‘Not OK’ which has a very upbeat tune with lilting guitar and some lovely harmony vocals on the chorus although the lyric is much darker than the tune suggests, and it works really well. Next up, ‘Bank’ begins with an ominous double bass leading into a fiddle driven track extolling the non-virtues of our banking institutions and offering some interesting insight into the way they operate to the detriment of normal folk. What’s not to like I thought. Well, next up is ‘You Keep Coming’. When I heard the opening lyric I was intrigued, ‘There’s a
hidden place few get to see, in a forest that grows naturally, in the valley of two mountains,’ I wondered where this place was ? Turns out be something far removed from what I was thinking as the song is actually about, yes, wanking !! An at times hilarious take on that age-old activity over a very light-hearted soundtrack. All I can is say is that at least by the end of the song nothing had fallen off, nobody had gone blind or for that matter gone to Hell !!
Call off the Dogs is lovely piano driven track with great percussion and fiddle driving some dark lyrics and also has some lovely harmony vocals on the chorus. Old Elvis is an insightful microcosm of life on a council estate back in the day and drawing comparisons with the modern day and even namechecks Jeremy Corbyn and features some excellent Cajun style banjo.
Hi Viz is a great take on those individuals who seem to go a power trip as soon as they pull on said item of clothing. In fairness Gail does mention that they do have a job to do – but it’s a matter of how you do that job. I am sure most of us have encountered such an individual at a festival, sporting event or even protest march, and so would likely appreciate the sentiment, ‘Tuck your superiority complex rants, back in your inadequate underpants and kindly.. fuck off’. It should not be overlooked that this is a good tune as well !!
Glass Houses is another piano/guitar driven tune with a very pleasing melody and Lizzie’s fiddle is tinged with sadness and another chorus with some lovely harmony vocals. Reasons features some very thoughtful and insightful lyrics about the divisions in our society and the attitudes and lack of empathy of so many all sung over an ethereal fiddle from Lizzie. Parody features some really tight banjo with an almost rap style chorus asking if the government knows best ? It actually reminded me of Roger Waters lyric on The Wall album – ‘Mother, should I trust the government ?’ This song answers the question in no uncertain terms !!
On the face of it ‘Nice Arse’ is a banjo driven comedic take on sexual stereotypes and predators, but listen a little deeper and some serious issues are actually being addressed here with some very poignant lyrics at the end of the song, ‘Ask yourself if you would like to see your mother treated like that, you got no class’. The curtain is brought down with the appropriately titled ‘Epilogue’ featuring fiddle and harpsichord and is a fine album closer.
Hopefully this gives you, dear reader, an insight into this fine album and all it remains for me to do is to wish Gail and her team every success with the album launch at the coming Sistafest. So, whether you are at Sistafest or online, go, on, get a copy of this CD, you know you want to….
You won’t be disappointed !!
Muddy Summers and The Dirty Field Whores have been a moveable feast for some years now, but over the last two they’ve had a consistently all-female line up and, it has to be said, it is their best and most successful incarnation by far. Hailing from the Forest of Dean and Nottingham and fronted by the irrepressible Gail Something Else (she of the wonderfully anarchic Something Else festivals), this radical feistyfolkpunkpop band are in their prime, and their second album, From Seeds, is a refreshing slice of female perspective bursting at the seams with confidence and strength.
With irresistibly catchy rhythms and urgent poetry, sweet and mournful fiddle, haunting flute, impudent melodica, and a driving cajon, it’s a big two-fingered salute to patriarchy, monarchy, ‘normality’, arbitrary inequality and to every ‘ism’ and ‘ist’ you could care to list.
Fearlessly, the songs address issues such as abortion, breastfeeding (and rejection of the social stigma of), the worries and responsibilities of motherhood in these fraught and worrying times, the taint and disparity of capitalism, the endless misogyny that should surely have run its course by now, and the pisstaking price we pay as women who bleed.
You may find yourself swaying, laughing, nodding in recognition and despair, your hackles and goosebumps raised in solidarity. There’s every chance you’ll be singing along at the top of your voice to the more anthemic festival favourites.
From Seeds is sombre, provocative, and threatening. It is conciliatory, resigned, and then filled with fire and hope again. It stands as a musical blueprint for the difference between right and wrong, and how we can best get along without actually hurting anyone or making them feel somehow less.
This is an album for everyone, not ‘just’ women. It’s for brothers and sons, dads and nannas, mothers and sisters. And it’s for all of our daughters, too.
The album is available from https://muddysummers.bandcamp.com
by Laura Taylor
‘To paraphrase Oasis, whatever you expect of this album – it’s not!
Seeing Red (& Black), the most recent pressed album to come from Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores is an album full of surprises – and one you need in your musical collection.
The “grrrrl” band that started out as a collaboration project, features Gail Something-Else, Tez Roberts, Aimee Bee and Suzy Condrad on a variety of instruments including stick bass, baritone uke, melodica, guitar, and El Cajon. For this album, they are joined by Hellen Bach on flute and Mel Rogers from Tarantism on whistle.
If you were expecting an invitation to a tea party hosted by The Raincoats and Crass then think again! Although the girls are singing about all things social and political that matter to them, and some of the content is not for the faint-hearted or Daily Mail reader, this album does not feel the need to growl before it bites.
To set you a scene, imagine it’s the mid 1960’s, you are walking down the West Bank of the Seine and you pop into a smoky cafe for a coffee and brandy. The atmosphere is thick with political debate, in the far corner sit a group of bohemian looking women playing music.
Fronting this sound are the mellifluous tones of Gail’s vocals. There’ a hint of female crooner about them that is simple and charming, a sort of politicised Dusty Springfield; infuse a hybrid between that and Hazel O’Connor meets Lily Allen and you could be getting close.
The production of the album is ridiculously crisp and clean considering it was recorded in a cow shed – no, seriously, it was – for which Jeremy Paul Carroll deserves much applause. He has put The First Lady of Confrontation’s vocals centre stage, where they belong, and wrapped them up in the warm tones of the flute and melodica.
There are echoes of traditional folk running right through the album that is a melange drawing on left-bank swing, Balkan gypsy dance, jazz waltz fusion and cowgirl reggae-hop. From the opening lines of Seeing Red, which sets out the political position of the band quite clearly, the album continues in an almost dreamy landscape that covers broken relationships, failed political promises and the despising of monarchy and capitalists. Gail’s words come from the heart and her compositions are obviously influenced by the sounds she heard at home and in concert halls as a young woman – which is no bad thing if you appreciate intelligent musical construction.
As with all artists, you can tell which pieces mean the most to them. So when you have listened to and enjoyed the rousing tirades of Between Your Legs (So we’ll sing for our sisters, our daughters and our mothers), Landgrabber (landgrabber .. you don’t impress me. Power and greed equals inadequacy) and sung along to the anthemic eponymous Dirty Field Whore, take the time to sit down and listen in detail to the heart-wrenching joy that is Bag Full of Holes (Time doesn’t heal, it just offers you a deal. Nothing to lose, Just the risk of one more bruise) before settling in your chair and wallowing in the delight of When Goodbye Was Some Other Day, a song so beautifully sung that you could be forgiven for not wanting to suture the deep wounds whose blood fed the words being sung.’
Graham Parker, Macstock
Seeing Red (& black) is available from the online shop, iTunes etc. or listen online at Reverbnation.
Review from The Sound of Summer of our new single/video that’s coming out at Midnight tonight!
Conventional wisdom dictates that we become more conservative as we age. Let me tell you that is not the case for me or indeed for many of the amazing people I spend my summers with at the numerous music festivals I attend.
Admittedly many of those who inhabit the world I live in during the UK summer were probably sitting comfortably at the anarchistic end of the political spectrum to begin with. As I and many of my friends have come to realise the “system” is geared to make the rich richer and to support privilege and the class system.
Sitting right at the top of this rotten and corrupt system sits Queen Elizabeth and her bloodsucking inbred family. Royalty is the epitome of the class system a system that rewards unearned privilege on the backs of the poor. A system that benefits the 1% at the expense of the…
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