A Clarion Call For Our Age – ‘The Elegance of Mud’ Album Review by Alan Ewart

Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores

‘The Elegance of Mud’ Album Review

by Alan Ewart

A Clarion Call for our Age

Those of you who know me through my writing for Louder Than War and others, or through my own websites, may know that I gave up reviewing music when I went back to University a couple of years ago. I was therefore delighted to be asked to review the latest offering, ‘The Elegance of Mud,’ from Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores. Admittedly, I did have a sneak preview of a couple of tracks during a quite wonderful, Cider and Gin fuelled, evening in the Forest of Dean, during the summer.

Anyone who frequents the grass roots music scene will undoubtedly have heard Muddy Summers & DFW especially on the festival scene. Their stripped back, raw, uncompromising, sound and the well-crafted, and often cutting, lyrics, a hallmark of the band, is certainly still present, but this is an album that goes several steps further. I think that this is an album where a band really “found” itself.

To explain I need to take the somewhat unusual step of beginning at the end. The closing track “Bella Ciao” is a masterpiece. Many of you will recognise Bella Ciao as the Anti-Fascist anthem adopted by Italian Partisan fighters rebelling against the fascist regimes of Mussolini and Hitler, but here there has been a twist.

Perhaps the most obvious twist is the updating of the lyrics, they address fascism more directly, and they reflect the rise of the far right in countries across the world, including right here in the UK. So Bella Ciao, serves as a clarion call, a warning that fascism is on the rise, and that we must wake up to threat it poses.
However, Bella Ciao, does so much more than this, because it is the key to the album as a piece of work, it is the glue that holds everything together. This is an arrangement that takes you to a piazza in tiny mountaintop village in 1940’s Italy. The partisans are gathered, sipping Grappa, in a dimly lit bar, their music giving them heart for the battle to come. This is an arrangement best heard in just such a piazza, or gathered around a campfire on a warm summer evening, drinking cider, in a festival field. It stirs the blood, it reaches you emotionally, and, on a more cerebral level, it makes the entire piece of musical art make sense. It also sets the scene for the style adopted across the entire album.

The Elegance of Mud is without question an album of 2020. It charts the rare ups and the many downs that the year of 2020 has thrown us. Sometimes the allusion to 2020 is pretty clear as in the donning of the “tinfoil hats” in the delightfully ironic ‘Conspiraloon.’

Often it is deeply personal, perhaps most clearly heard on Boundaries, the second track. The pain is close to the surface, there is a deep sense of betrayal. Yet this isn’t pain revealed for its own sake, it’s not self-pity, this is pain overcome, a complete adherence to your own beliefs and boundaries, something captured beautifully in the lyric “I hope one day when you hear my name, you’ll hear Boundaries ain’t a game.” It’s a hard edged message wrapped up in a cheery dance tune.

The personal is to the fore in a number of other tracks, notably in ‘Bored of the Bandwagon Battle’ and in ‘Secrets’ but the sense of personal is present throughout the entire album. Personal is sometimes wrapped in allegory as per ‘Don’t play chess with chickens,’ sometimes it’s a bit more obvious, but as a piece the entire album invites us to consider exactly where we are in this moment in time, and perhaps it gives us a space to think about how we can achieve the world we want to live in.

I guess that I have painted this as a dark album, but in reality it is far from that. The messages and the depths are certainly present for those who, like me, like to analyse themes in lyrics to gain a broader understanding of the artists perspective. As such this is an album that really benefits from multiple listens.

At the same time, The Elegance of Mud is packed full of bright tunes and humorous stories, for example ‘House of Lords’ is packed full of funny anecdotes, and do listen out for the background comments. It is also danceable and there are plenty of big singalong choruses which will come into their own live, something I am sure we are all looking forward to.

As should be apparent, I found The Elegance of Mud a hugely enjoyable listen, and a very interesting social commentary on a very difficult year. Getting an album out at all in the current climate is incredibly difficult. To produce an album of this quality, when each band member had to record their tracks remotely, in their own homes, is quite an achievement. To record, mix, produce, master, and release an album in two-weeks, during lockdown, is nothing short of extraordinary.
It’s a solid 5* from me.

You can hear it HERE

How the f*ck d’you create a DIY album in a fortnight with Covid about?!

We just did exactly that, and I guess the answer is to clear your decks, be prepared to live on coffee and gack, shut the world out, go a little bit mental and avoid the search for that mythical creature calling itself ‘Perfection’.

‘The Elegance of Mud’ should have been out in May 2020, and we were due to launch it at Bearded Theory. For obvious to anyone who hasn’t been dwelling in a shack in the woods and living off a good forage reasons, that didn’t transpire, and all we had down was the opening track.

The few occasions we have managed to meet up during this weirdest of years we’ve spent busking online, jamming and just enjoying such special company. Like all the other working musicians we know, we’ve missed it – the gigging, the buzz, the consistent bonding that there’s nothing else quite like, the travelling, the hanging out with the audience, the getting mashed up together knowing we’re all safe, even the dickheads down the front giving it ‘Show us yer tits‘ for the twentumteenth time. To spend that precious time isolated in earphones or being quiet around the condenser mics would have been a waste of good medicine.

We were due to be on a South West tour for the last week of October, so had decided to use that time to get together and focus on recording, with some fun intertwined for sanity’s sake. We’re spread all over the country, and local lockdowns soon shat all over that plan.

Fuck it. Let’s do it distantly, and try and have it all done and dusted in a fortnight!’

We hadn’t even played some of the songs together, and others fell off the tracklist in favour of new ones, but still there was a resounding


So we did. We don’t tend to record in a traditional order. Usually, a rough guitar/vocal guide track goes down, then guitar/piano/banjo, main vocals, bass, cajon, followed by fiddle, backing vocals and whatever else we’re throwing in. We’re not surrounded by fancy equipment either, and are mostly using inexpensive soundcards and mics, unless Lizzie pops in to the studio at her Uni.

Despite the odds, what came through the airwaves in less than a week from the far reaches of Essex, Nottingham and Wales to land in the Forest of Dean felt like magic. I guess the internet is the closest thing to witchery and wizardry there is, and I’m pretty sure that most of us are grateful for its existence more than ever at the moment. The ability to communicate, create and relate are outweighing its darker sides, for sure.

I don’t know how it is for other songwriters, but when I’m writing the words and the tune, I have a sort of picture in my head, and the music is as much a part of that as whatever I’m gobbing off about. I don’t want to rattle on about the incredible bond you have within a band that have played together for a while, who get each other and the music they’re making, but even miles apart, and on stuff we’ve never played, this beautifully talented bunch of friends I work with paint their own parts in, and it’s like we’re all using the same brush, though their colours are inevitably more vivid. It’s fucking wonderful!

Next came the putting it all together and fucking about with it. This is my second go at mixing, arranging and producing an album us four have created, and I still have no idea what I’m doing in a technical sense – but I think I’ve learned a fair bit since the last one. I use the Studio One software, and to call it an experimental process is definitely putting it mildly. My ears are seeking those pictures, and trying to balance the colours. It took seven out of eight days (I took a day off to save both my laptop and my window towards the end) to get it where I was mostly happy/at the end of my abilities. I’ve always loved jigsaws, and never cared if there’s a piece or two missing. Thankfully, my bandmates share that attitude, and it is DIY after all.

‘To seek perfection is a waste of precious time.’

After approval from everyone, and sharing it with the ears of a few friends, off it went to our friend Dave Milligan for his magical mastering touch. He came back with a handful of tweak suggestions, tweaked it was, and then we had the full mastered album from him the following day.

We released it two days later!

If you’ve got this far, you can click on the album cover below to listen, and grab a copy via download or on good ode fashioned CD.

Thanks for reading, Gail xxx

The Dirty Field Whores do Rebellion..

What a weekend..5 sets in less than 24 hours!

This weekend was hectic on so many levels. Gail’s truck had to have the fuel pump sorted just before the weekend, and both Lizzie and Haitch (our band Mum) were having vehicle troubles, which became apparent on the way to Nah Then! Festival – our Friday eve gig.

Nah Then! is a great little grassroots two dayer in Derbyshire, and organised by one of our favourite bands, The Star Botherers, and The Black Market Venue. We had a really luvvly gig there, though had to shoot off straight after to get to Blackpool ready to play at Rebellion Punk Music Festival the next day. – in the fucking Opera House!

I say ‘shoot’, but after ‘These are the best headlights I’ve ever had on a vehicle’ on the way up Thursday eve, Gail’s truck wouldn’t turn over when it came to leave. After a jump start and an hour into the journey across the stunning Derbyshire Dales, the truck lights darkened at the same rate as the sky, the fan cut out, and it was hello RAC – who quoted 4-5 hours due to the flooding in the area keeping them busy. She finally hit the campsite near Blackpool at 5.30am, wired and tired, and with a brand new battery.

Our first gig of Saturday was at 1.25pm in the Opera House. Mindblowing acoustics, top crew and we had a right ball. Thanks loads to Jennie for booking us. Here’s a clip of ‘Nice Arse’ in there. It’s a song reversing the neanderthal behaviour so many of us have, and do, endure. Fucking patriarchy..

Our next gig wasn’t until 5.20pm on the Almost Acoustic Stage, so we hit the street for our first busk as a full band, and bloody LOVED it! There’s something a bit beautiful in having a mix of punks, tourists, kids and local Nannas singing ‘Yeh yeh it’s all shit’ back at you.

It was also quite nice to piss a couple of far right fuckwits off who were watching us by singing ‘Bella Ciao’, an old Italian antifascist song, an’ all. ‘Fascist punk’ is such an oxymoron, and those that are, well, just drop the ‘oxy’ bit. We’ve never been to Rebellion before, but there was a lot of buzz about how this element were diminishing – here, at least. Good..off you fuck.

We played the Almost Acoustic Stage as the Stripped Down Dirty Whores, and that was loads of fun, too, though by this point we all had blisters, were donning well placed plasters on our fingers..and slightly annebriated.

We followed it with another gert lush busk before hooking up with Hobo Jones & the Junkyard Dogs to get fucked up with Wino for his birthday, and caught a bit of The Ramonas doing their original stuff, but missed nearly all the acts we wanted to see. We’re definitely gonna stay the whole 4 days next year, though. One day ain’t enough..


Sat – 4.30pm – Fogger’s Mill
Sun – 2.30pm – Rimski’s Yard
Sun – 4.30pm – Fogger’s Mill


Muddy Summers and the DFWs meet the BBC..

It’s not every day you get an invite to do a live recording session with the BBC, but we got one from the consistently supportive Andrew Marston from BBC Introducing Hereford & Worcester a couple of weeks ago. He’s been playing and plugging our ‘gentler’ tracks on his weekend show for a couple of years now – tunes that we rarely play live – so our initial reaction was ‘FUCK, how are we gonna play 4 songs that don’t have any swearing in?!

After some joint research, and dismissing tracks such as You Keep Coming (not sweary, but about women wanking), we settled on tweaking the odd word in Hungry Little Human (about breastfeeding), Call Off the Dogs (about escaping domestic abuse), the Ren penned R U Happy? (about mental health) and Plant Roses In It (about the state of society). The chorus of the last one is ‘Yeh yeh it’s all shit‘. More on that later.

Off we headed to Malvern, and stayed by a brilliant, friendly little pub in Newland called The Swan. The beer was well kept and the menu is well worth checking out – they even have a whole page for vegans! We planned to busk in the day, but it was Sunday, and Malvern was a ghost town. Instead, we set up in the garden of a nice pub called The Unicorn, got a few quid in the hat, and talked some of the local old boys into coming to the gig later.

The Malvern Cube is a great community venue, and host to this particular BBC Introducing session. Great spaces like this exist everywhere, but are regularly in danger of closure, and need supporting. Life without live music venues would be rubbish.

We got there early enough to support the other 3 acts on the bill – Neon Creatures, Gordon Star and RAB, and were given the drill. They all did their thing well, but Neon Creatures stood out for all of us. Half of the 6 piece are women, and the singer’s voice melts your brains.

Gail was ill from a sulfite reaction after too much dodgy cheap red wine a few days before and Ren had strained his picking hand tendons. Luckily, Aimee and Lizzie were in full energy mode and it was rubbing off. We played follow the leader with Andy, their photographer (all pics on this blog are his) and then it was time for our stint.

We successfully dropped the ‘whore‘ out of Hungry Little Human and replaced it with ‘boar‘, swapped the ‘fucks‘ in Call off the Dogs for ‘cares‘ – but Tom Robinson didn’t when he played us on 6Music the following weekend – though the instrumentals were removed. You can hear that on his Saturday night show, and his Sunday night MIXTAPE for the next 3 weeks or so. The fire alarms went off during R U Happy, due to an overzealous smoke machine which we’d requested not to have on, Haitch, our band Mum, accused us of breaking the BBC and then it all went a bit sideways for Plant Roses in It..

We’re not advocates of censorship, and it’s pretty tricky to replace words you’ve muscle memoried in for so long, so the inevitable ‘shit‘ came out, and Gail lost hers after the second attempt at a take.

‘This is bollocks, they say the cuntword on Radio 4 all the time. It’s not the 19 fucking 50s’ followed by all of the expletives like a naughty kid who’d just learnt them.

The organisers remained cool and professional, and just told us to play it as it’s supposed to be, but keep ‘shankers‘ instead of ‘wankers‘. Looking forward to hearing how they clean all that shit up!

Reckon overall it was one for the experience bank, and we definitely had fun.It’ll be broadcast, or the songs and some of the interview anyway, on 24 and 25 August. We’ll share the links when they’re up. Meantime, here’s some snippets of video from Haitch & Dan’s phones.

‘Beautiful, quirky and humorous lyrics about life’s little challenges in a must-see live show.’ – Andrew Marston – BBC Introducing


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.

It is available from https://muddysummers.bandcamp.com

by Laura Taylor – Poet


muddy woodland2.jpg

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 !!
Mark Goodman
Magpie Music

ALBUM REVIEW: From Seeds – Muddy Summers & the Dirty Field Whores by Laura Taylor


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



Seeing Red (and Black) Album Review – Graham Parker, Macstock


‘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.