When I first listened to the debut full-length album by Brighton, England quartet Mudlow, Welcome to Mudlow Country, I was taken utterly by surprise. These talented few possess a wholly unique sound, decidedly one of the more original ones I have come across in recent years. An amalgamation of musical elements consisting of back alley blues, noir jazz, dark lounge-core, and gritty roots rock, just as raw and dirty as it is tight, cinematic and exceptionally well-constructed, Mudlow’s raunchy sound seems almost like something one might hear at a smoky basement speakeasy, a strip club on the wrong side of town, in the pages of an obscure crime novel, the sort of carnival one doesn’t take one’s children to, or accompanying the strange imagery and hip characters of a black-and-white exploitation film.
As far as the working components of Mudlow’s gargantuan sound, they are easiest appreciated as a whole, obviously, with all of the interacting instrumentation and whisky-soaked vocals. That is, I often visualize music in an anatomical sense: the instrumentation being the various parts of the body, and the vocals being the head. In other words, the instruments are the trunk, or foundation, along with the appendages, and the vocals give a face to the whole thing, with distinct features. Still, in this case, I am having difficulty deciding if this head wears an old greasy newsboy cap or a cool-as-can-be fedora. That’s neither here nor there, really. Just something that sneaked into my gray matter for a few moments of contemplation.
Mudlow can also be appreciated on many levels by its individual parts. Frontman and songsmith Tobias provides rust bucket vocals and plenty of guitar sludge and twang-infected blues riffs. Matt Black drums with mathematical precision, presiding over the kit like a pro. Paul Beat skillfully works the thick strings of his Rickenbacher bass, going beyond the simple routine of hitting on root notes. Trimble wails on the saxophone like the wild, improvisational ‘50s era jazz men of Frisco that the Beat Generation so celebrated in their legendary poems. And lastly we have a musician referred to simply as Jules, who is not one of the band’s core members but is credited as having contributed harmonica and baritone sax to the songs on the album.
There is something undeniably Waitsian and Cave-esque about Mudlow’s sound, but it also reminds me somewhat of a more obscure band or two, especially Colorado’s Bad Luck City. Most of all, though, it is a unique sound that stands on its own and requires little comparison, which is evidenced on the album.
Welcome to Mudlow Country consists of thirteen territorial sonic markings from a remarkably rare breed of musical animal. Even though this album was originally released in 2005, it is one that deserves mention again and again throughout the years so that it can be discovered and appreciated by obscure music enthusiasts who may not have otherwise come across it. Believe me, it’s about time you took a trip to Mudlow Country.