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.
by Laura Taylor
APATHY By Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores
Having been privileged to have been given a sneak preview of some of the songs for Gail’s new album, Apathy, I was really looking forward to hearing the finished product and I have to say I have not been disappointed.
Unlike the last Muddy Summers album, Monkey on my Back, which was very eclectic in nature, this latest offering is quite different. The cover probably gives away the sentiments contained in the albums lyrics, but does not give much of a clue to the musical delights contained within. Yes, the album is overtly political, but very much in the style of the best protest singers and poets down the years.
Musically, it is very much in the style of traditional folk and protest screams from the lyric sheet. That said there is also a feeling of underlying sadness that comes out in the delivery and Gail’s vocal while certainly driving home the message manages to sound vulnerable at the same time, in a way which is very endearing.
The opening track ‘To Land’ does not actually prepare you for what is to follow. It is in fact a reggae based acoustic number that has a very upbeat feel about it despite the lyric intimating that nothing much changes down the years. The whistled outro is a delight and just leaves you with a smile on your face.
As The Dragon Runs, takes the mood down a notch or two and opens with an almost ethereal whistle courtesy of Jay Terrestrial that sets the stage for a song that explores the destruction wreaked by the system and people burying their heads in the sand as the dragon runs leaving flames and cinders in its wake. Powerful, stuff indeed.
Tony Hopkins excellent guitar sets the tone for Empathy, a song that really does explore the true nature of empathy and it’s hard not to shed a tear when Gail sings about the old man who has lost his wife and Tony’s guitar evokes real sadness. One forms the impression that Gail bases a lot of her songs on personal experiences and the lyrics come straight from the heart and in very raw form. For me this just adds to the poignancy of the song.
Dai Blow’s Melodica makes a nice easy intro for Conspiraloon, and the whole delivery of this song is very laid back and pleasant with hints of cow bells and a lyric that does what it says on the tin. In fact you could make an argument for adding the word Conspiraloon to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Dai Blow features again on Cry of the Thwarted Bigot, this time with a jazz influenced clarinet hovering over Buzz Onion’s reggae based guitar riff while Gail vents her spleen on bigots and bigotry while encouraging people to stop misdirecting their anger. Again a very poignant song with some great echoes coming to the fore in the outro.
Next up is Ignition, performed by just Gail and the Inimitable Doozer McDooze playing the multi instrumental card on what is musically and lyrically a very, very good song featuring some fine keyboards and guitars and an almost desperate vocal delivery from Gail, that makes this a very powerful song indeed.
Dai Blow is back on melodica for Passive Aggressive a song featuring some clever lyrical delivery. The excellent Tony Hopkins returns on guitar for What do we tell our Children and Dai again is featured, this time on whistle, which again gives an almost ethereal feel to what is as much a story song as a song with a message for future generations. Everything from Stop and Search to fracking gets the treatment here.
Domestic Terrorist is grim stuff indeed. Starting with the all too familiar story of a man who feeds the fumes from his exhaust into his car because he can’t support his family and moving on to the recent story of those lads who were prosecuted for taking discarded food from a skip. This is a song that makes you sit up and think for sure.
Open eyes is another duet between Gail and Doozer that works well as always. Another folk song with a reggae influence that actually keeps the mood quite upbeat, Swimming to another beginning with these open eyes……..
The album closer is not a new song and has been around for a while in one form or another. In this guise it stands out as totally different musically from the rest of the album. It is in fact collaboration with Rev Dread that produces a kind of electro folk hybrid that actually works rather well. The song features one of Gail’s favourite words and no one escapes the treatment here, Cameron, Osborne, Smith, Gove, Hunt, May et al are all subject to Gail’s vitriol bringing the album to an appropriate finish
So in conclusion, Gail has written some very good and very potent songs here and delivered it all with some real top notch musicians. All in all an album that is musically very mature and highly listenable with a good production that still keeps the raw feel of the music alive. All delivered with lyrical potency of a Glasgee Kiss. Do yourself a big favour and get a copy of this fine album.
You can listen to and buy it here, or pay what you want for the download – BUY THE ALBUM
I also asked Gail a few questions about it…..
Gail, The title of the new album is ‘Apathy’ what was the thinking behind that?
It’s really ‘Fuck Apathy’ but there are only so many releases you can have the fuckword in, right? Hence the artwork.
As with your previous work a number of the songs draw upon personal experiences, that seems to be the case with some of the songs here as well?
I can only write about what I see or feel. The words come out in rant form and in one hit, about whatever happens to be making my shit itch at the time. They get edited if they need to fit a tune a bit better, but other than that, they’re raw and from the gut. I guess that makes them all personal in a way.
You have used a number of different musicians on this album and yet you still seem to obtain a very cohesive sound across the whole album…
I am immensely lucky to have so many proper talented musicians up for working with me. I say what kind of feel I’m looking for, and maybe send words if they’re already written, and they just get it, even if it’s not their ‘thing’.
Your last album was very eclectic in nature whereas this album has a more traditional folk style feel about it, was that a conscious decision or did it just turn out that way?
It was very deliberate. I love the accidental diversity of the Monkey on my Back album, but I grew up as part of a big family feeding me so many musical influences which only really excluded folk and jazz. I sort of claimed folk as my own, and protest songs seem to sit best with it, I guess. Now I just need a beard to stroke.
The album is obviously very overtly political and that comes across in the lyrics, but there is also an underlying feeling that had a lot of fun making the album?
Ah, we always have fun. Everything is either recorded in my living room (often after a few ales) or music and vocal lines are exchanged via the wonders of the internet. It’s not massively produced and there’s no desire for perfection. Seems to be what works best for us.
Obviously you have at least three ‘Something Else’ events this plus the Tea Tent will be at the likes of Bearded Theory, is it your intent to showcase these songs at those festivals?
Definitely! Nowt wrong with a bit of self-indulgence, especially when surrounded by so much talent in a field!
Last Year you enjoyed success with Muddy Summers on the Cider and Sanity Tour. With everything else you have on your plate this year, is there a possibility of an Apathy Tour?
Yeah, though not til the Autumn/Winter. This is my most manic year to date!
The Album closer has appeared in many different guises over the years, but this one is in stark contrast to the rest of the album, was there a particular reason for doing it that way?
I like the last track on an album to have impact. Rev Dread has also been one of my more regular collaborators (we ended up doing a whole electro album together) so I wanted him on there somewhere. It’s still a folk song, just a more inyerface version.
History has thrown up many protest singers and bands over the years, From Woodie Guthrie to The Levellers. Clearly music cannot change the world but how important do you think it is to keep sending out that message?
I think any form of protest is vital, whether music based or otherwise, and I truly believe we’d be a lot more fucked than we are now without it. Listening to the likes of Guthrie, Billy Bragg and Bob Dylan when I was young played a huge part in politicising me. It’s also an amazing way to bring likeminded folks together which in turn helps shit get done, even if it does just come down to stopping the vile, acidic pissing down on us from above getting worse.
Finally, Gail what are your plans for Muddy Summers moving ahead into the future?
Well, it’d be nice to not have stuff to rant and sing about, but history and reality suggest that fighting this shit is infinite, so we might just step out of the collaboration ethic and form a proper band and rehearse and all that. But then again we might not.. x
Mark A Goodman