Waiting for the Tide to Rise
Do you ever get that feeling that you’re missing out on something? Maybe others know about it, but they’re not letting you in on the secret? Anxious, paranoid? Cognitive dissonance? Craving answers but unable to frame the question? Having difficulty processing the concept of unknown unknowns? Life will do that to you and, when it does, you need friends to point you in the right direction, to set you on the right path. If it could be considered grandiose to suggest that Mudlow’s Waiting for the Tide to Rise offers a solution to all your worldly worries, certainly here is an album that will take your mind off your money, leaving you wondering if those disturbed feelings were justified after all.
Waiting for the Tide to Rise sees Mudlow gather together tracks from their previous digital Eps and release them as a single album, available on vinyl for the first time thanks to Germany’s Stag-O-Lee label. It’s a compilation that spans the bands career, from their formation in 2002 to their most recent releases: a decade and a half of drunken blues and rock & roll debauchery, a period which has seen the band evolved from a five-piece with horns, to the streamlined gumbo rock three-piece we know today.
The band’s sound is a perfect fit for what we like to call Gumbo Rock, a well-seasoned crock of Southern influences, blues, country, noir&b and sleazy rock and roll. Tobias Mudlow plays a dirty blues guitar so hot it could have just been dragged from the gates of hell, while his voice sounds like a slanging match between Tom Waits and Howlin’ Wolf - both out of their minds on Quaaludes. That’s not to suggest that he can’t sing or that he doesn’t have soul, but if you’re thinking of taking your mother to see him, you’ve been warned. Drummer Matt Latcham is equally adept at the swamp-funk he delivers on Stubb’s Yard, the fat country-soul groove of So Long Lee and the badass rockin’ of Codename: Toad, while producer and bassman Paul Pascoe ploughs his skuzzy furrow deep and dirty, adding the classic Rickenbacker fuzz. There’s a storm brewing.
The album opens with Down in the Snow, recorded in 2004, showcasing where Mudlow were at when they first formed, rising , phoenix-like, from the ashes of rockers Craw Limbo. A slice of dirty garage r&b replete with a horn section to strip to and a bassline to grind you into the floor. For music based on such a familiar formula to feel so dangerous and vital is exciting, sounding as necessary today as it must have when it was recorded fourteen years ago. Music doesn’t go bad when the quality of the ingredients is this high. Track two, Drunken Turkey is from the same period as the opener, slowing proceedings with a loping blues that will bloody your nose with a tale of rusty buckets and headstones. The next two tracks are from 2012 and the band has slimmed down, but there’s still some sax grunting away in the background on Damn Your Eyes. The Jester slows things down to a waltz-time for Tobias’s tormented soul balladry. Stubb’s Yard is from 2015 and sees the band as a three piece, embracing their core identity and bringing the gumbo rock groove (this is the first Mudlow track we played on the Whiskey Preachin Radio Show, back when it was released on the Minnesota Snow EP). Snowhill Farm closes out side one of the LP, all acoustic guitar and Tobias’s plaintive evocation of loss, landscape and memory.
Side two picks up the pace while keeping the moodiness intact, Latcham’s shuffling rhythms propelling the atmospherics perfectly, that storms getting closer. So Long Lee kicks off with a break crying out to be sampled, before Tobias wails in like a man who’s just stubbed all his toes and that Rickenbacker fuzz fills out the low end – one for the barnyard break-dancers. Minnesota Snow brings the moodiness back before Codename: Toad (2015) brings the belly punch that puts you on your knees, full of arrogant swagger; “I gotta Cuban Chevrolet and a walnut-grip Baretta, I got a Hispanic honey in a mohair sweater”. The message? Don’t mess with Mudlow. Evol, from 2012, closes out the set (although there are six bonus tracks on the CD, for me the whole point of this release is to finally have this material on vinyl). What did he see creeping round the back door? Better run…
For a collection like Waiting for the Tide to Rise, one that pulls together recordings from over a decade and a half, to be so coherent a listen as an album is testament to the band’s continuing vision, a vision that has endured and found them sounding as fresh today as they were sounding fifteen years ago. Few bands could put out a compilation album spanning such a long period while also sounding like it could be a single album project. There have been developments in style and material, in the band’s lineup and instrumentation, but the core identity is the same, the core rhythm section of Paul and Matt and the growl and demented twang of Tobias anchor these songs across a decade and a half, as does Paul’s production. The fact that these three have maintained their sound over years of touring and recording has gained them a loyal following among fans and other like-minded bands, with Mudlow having shared stages with the likes of James Leg and the Black Diamond Heavies, Scott H Biram, Seasick Steve, Bob Log iii and The Bonnevilles. If they rock up on a stage near you, do yourself a favour and get yourself in the action.
Oh, and don’t worry, you’re not going mad, it is a crazy ole world out there. Just remember, you’re not alone, Whiskey Preachin love you and Mudlow are digging your grave. Sweet dreams.