Giving your newest major label release a title like Mud doesn’t exactly make it sound enticing. Granted, it’s the definition of a “don’t judge a book by its cover” situation, but on a purely semantic level, it doesn’t hint that there’s much in the way of excitement. Saying that, it sounds somewhat appropriate for Whiskey Myers – they’ve never been a bad band, but their Red Dirt country rock has frequently been placed into formulaic territory, verging on dullness.
For the actual sound of the band, not a lot has changed on Mud. The Texans keep to their usual brand of kind of stale but serviceable country, but the serendipity of that title shines brightest in the production. Dave Cobb sits behind the mixing desk here, and while his sound is usually characterised by a hollow, earthy and above all natural tone, Mud might be one of his spottiest production jobs to date. The guitars on the title track and Frogman feel compressed into a murky slurry, and with the plodding, listless drumbeat that loosely winds its way through a large portion of this album, there’s nothing ear-catching or captivating here. And what’s worse is that Cobb does actually live up to his usually high standards in parts of this album – the big horns on Lightning Bugs And Rain lend some brightness and muscle to the track, and there’s an exquisite clarity to Stone‘s soft piano line.
As for the band themselves, they’re similarly mixed here. It feels as though most of the time their going for a sort of loose, swampy style of Southern rock, and they have the potential to do it – Cody Cannon’s lazy drawl packs a level of soul and presence not dissimilar to that of an artist like Chris Stapleton, and the bucolic country sounds are brought in abundance with the spindly fiddles and female backing vocals. These influences kick in with the most effectiveness on the album’s tighter, more evidently rock-inspired tracks, Iike the hip-swinging infectiousness of Some Of Your Love. Away from that, a lot of Mud feels as though it goes beyond the point of rustic country rock and into a sludgy mess whose content drowns in its own slack instrumentation. Tracks like Hank and On The River feel borderline amorphous in the way their guitars, drums and strings bleed into each other, and while there’s power in Cannon’s vocals that acts as the keystone that keeps everything from falling apart completely, there’s not even a hint of tightness to keep them afloat.
It’s not even that Mud feels rushed; it gives the impression of an album designed to emulate the miry conditions of the Southern States that much of Whiskey Myers’ influences stem from. And while it undeniably hits those goals, they don’t translate well sonically, and Mud suffers as a result. You’ve got to hand it to them though, the accuracy of that title is unparalleled – Mud is grimy and unkempt, but also frequently unpleasant to delve into.
For fans of: Chris Stapleton, The Black Crowes, The Cadillac Three
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Mud’ by Whiskey Myers is released on 9th September on Spinefarm Records.