It includes porn, but not what you are expecting

Wrinkle Neck MulesThe Wicks Have Met

Now this is how I like my country music. Despite the questionable band name, Wrinkle Neck Mules are a talented 5 piece from Richmond that, like most country bands I enjoy, dabble in folk, bluegrass, and rock. The entire album is littered with mandolin, pedal steel and banjo played amazingly well. The instrumentation here is full and detailed but never takes away from the whole of the songs themselves (even if “Black Skies for the High & Mighty” is the band’s self described ‘mando porn’).

It might simply be the genres that lend themselves so well to this type of rich arrangement but it’s one of the band’s strongest talents. On the easy going “Cadillac Limousine” the pedal steel and mandolin help turn an otherwise laid back, pretty song into something of a masterpiece that makes me want to take a long ass drive to I-don’t-give-a-fuck, USA.
With Andy Stepanian and Chase Heard writing the majority of material you also get two singers who I appreciate equally (though I prefer the whiskey growl of what I believe to be Stepanian). Both singers suit the material and other than the vocals I probably couldn’t-or wouldn’t want to-differentiate between the two as writers. These songs are dark in their lyrics but get yanked back from the gloom by the dichotomy of the intensely bright arrangements. The music seems to represent some kind of hopefulness punching through the nature of the words.

The band’s opening track, “Bells & Whistles” immediately brought to mind Steve Earle’s, “Copperhead Road” with what I first assumed was a jumpy piano and only later realized was mandolin. My favorite pick, “Cumberland Sound”, could have come straight out of the songbook of Drive By Trucker’s Mike Cooley. The entire album varies in tempo and pace and all the while maintains a sense of unity among the songs, perhaps because of that duality of bright and dark used throughout. The raucous opener and equally uptempo closer,”Broken Rider”, bookend the album fairly well considering the wealth of variety within. While there are just one or two clunkers, this is a country album made for those of you who can’t stand a Nashville shit sandwich.

The more I listen to this the more I love it. I want to get in my truck right now and just go.

Everyone I know, rivers to be dragged and tragedies, new ones

It’s settin’ to be hell week or a damn good time here in Nashville. The Americana Music Association is having their big conference in town and everyone is here. No, really EVERYONE: Dale Watson, Scott Miller & The Commonwealth, Corb Lund, Will Kimbrough, Jeffrey Foucault, The Hacienda Brothers, Lisa Hayes, Wrinkle Neck Mules, Dave Alvin, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint, Alejandro Escovedo, the Cherryholmes, the Derailers, Delbert McClinton, and about 700 other folks. The shows are happening all over and all at once, but we’ll be hitting as many of them as we can. If you’re in town or can get to Nashvegas, this is the time come. Full show schedule is here.

So last night I’m out on the town gearing up for this whole week of good shows and the whole place is a buzz with gossip. Rumor mongering everywhere about some “high class” male prostitute named Big Red, and how he was sent to a nice to hotel room, paid cash and then told to wait for the actual client (as apparently an intermediary was needed to broker this deal). Thunder rolled and in walked the real client demanding some rough, all night, mano a mano action that perhaps went down until the sun came up. You know what I’m sayin’?

Yeah, right so I suck at the blind item thing. The fact is sleezy tabloid reporters are going around saying how this story is going to break big! Make everyone forget all about Willie Nelson’s recent troubles. Apparently Big Red signed no non-disclosure agreement and he’s ready to talk. I’ll believe it when I see it, but if it does happen, just remember you read it here first, even if you couldn’t figure out what I’m talking about. Just don’t be namin’ names if you do.

I’m clearly all giddy from drinking too many PBRs last night and hearing too much insane celebrity gossip. I’ll spare you most of it so I can go on about my new favorite soon-to-be celebrities, The New Tragedies. They are on tour with our pal Cory Branan. You can see them both! Two birds with one stone! Check the dates:

9/22 – Fayetteville, AR – The Gypsy
9/23 – Memphis, TN – The Hi-Tone
9/24 – Louisville, KY – Rudyard Kipling
9/25 – Morgantown, WV – 123 Pleasant Street
9/26 – Baltimore, MD – Side Bar Tavern
9/27 – Richmond, VA – Gallery 5
9/28 – Charlotte, NC – Evening Muse
9/29 – Opelika, AL – Eighth And Rail
10/1 – Conway, AR – Sound Stage
10/3 – Kansas City, MO – Davey’s Uptown

And since I know some of you can’t make any of these locations, you’ll have to satisfy yourself with their charming little video. And as before, you can get all their incredibly awesome songs at their site.

In even more cool tour news, Drag the River and Lucero are going out together!!

11/13 – Philadelphia – North Star Bar
11/14 – Baltimore – Otto Bar
11/15 – Richmond VA – Alley Katz
11/16 – Carrborro NC – Cat’s Cradle
11/17 – Charleston NC – Cumberland’s
11/18 – Atlanta GA– Variety Playhouse
11/30 – Conway AR – Soundstage
12/2 – Baton Rouge LA– Chelsea’s Cafe
12/8 – Orlando FL– The Social
12/9 – Orlando FL – The Social

Also check the rest of the dates for Drag the River and Lucero. And hey, if you haven’t pre-ordered and gotten the digital download, the new Lucero album hits the stores next week.

So here it comes, my babies, starting this week a full fall season of alt.country goodness. Are you ready? Am I? It’s comin’ whether I am or not, so I better polish up my cowboy boots and y’all better brace yourselves for a bunch tales of country music goodness.

Wrinkle Neck Mules – Pull the Break

This band was recommended to us probably upwards of ten different times by different people (and over and over again by a couple persistent lunatics).

Alright then, let’s do it up.

The Wrinkle Neck Mules. They also have a MySpace, naturally, if you’re more of the stalking type. The one-eared mule head furry on their website is creepeh. If you think SciFi Channel original programming is scary, stay away from the website. Oh, look, they’re gonna be in Nashville on the 20th of September at the Americana Music Conference (along with so so many other people, post all about that to follow).

If you like ’90’s alt.country, you’ll love this album, Pull the Brake. You’ve got the multiple lead singers, twangy guitar, banjo plucking, low-fi production, randomly Southern themes, and combination of earnestness and irony in the lyrics. Personally, this works for me and has for a long time. There’s only so many times you can listen to Anodyne or Pneumonia, so I’m all for bands continuing this sound. [I’m on this train, it was good music then and it passes the time test. I’m glad to still be able to find it in new and different configurations.—Cricket]

“Light of Day” is a stand out track, with such lyrics as: Strung out on methadone and all her excuse is/she’s scared of the blues and the greys. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but I like to pretend she’s afraid of Civil War reenactors. [My favorite here is: Halfway smoked cigarettes and all kinds of bad news lingering around her lips. Yeah, it’s a great song.—Cricket]

“Strangers/Sojourners” is a very lovely instrumental piece, melancholy and feeling a little bit like looking out of the window at the rain when you were already feeling down, the sky matching your mood and reinforcing it. [You can almost hear the raindrops in the plucking here, but it sounds cheerful to me. Must be the Northwestern girl in me that romanticizes the rain.—Cricket]

“Weeps” starts out with the line took the doors off the hinges today. Most people now-a-days haven’t ever been to a wake with a body laid out in someone’s front room, and a detail like that is surprising in a song written by contemporaries of ours. The imagery sticks with you. I’m often of two minds of “traditional” songs written by people born after 1970—sometimes I laugh and think the word POSER really loudly in my brain, sometimes it works for me, making me remember that people can feel an affinity for something they’ve never really known (if that weren’t the case we wouldn’t have historical novels or period piece films/theater). In country music, there’s often a sense of nostalgia for “the old days” that usually gets expressed in dirges and murder ballads. This is in that vein. Some of the lyrics don’t work for me, but the overall tone and theme do. [“San Gabriel” makes me think of families escaping the Dust Bowl in the 30s and heading out west to find work when there was no agriculture to sustain folks during the Depression. It carries that hint of the old-timey that changes how I’d hear the same lyrics otherwise. “Push the Pedal,” and “Okeechobee” also are filled with sound that carries potentially timeless lyrics back and make you feel like the whole song is much older than it really is. I think this is one of my favorite things about this band.—Cricket]

In a completely shocking turn of events, the tracks on this album that stick close to the faded echo of what “traditional” music means to postmodern America work for me, while the tracks where they get caught up in busying it all up with too much orchestration don’t.

If you like Uncle Tupelo [or Son Volt, or the Goodbye Sons or The Pawtuckets or a bunch of others.—Cricket], you’d be doing yourself a favor to buy this record. If you’re gonna be around TN, GA, VA, KY or NYC this fall you should check the dates and go give’em a listen live.

[This album is totally going into my regular rotation, for all the reasons and songs mentioned above and also for the tracks “Eyes Down,” “Lowlight,” and “Dust of Saturday.” The usual country music themes, drinking, death, lonely misery, all appear here and baby, that’s just the way I like it.—Cricket]