Fuckola! Not even a year has passed since they carpetbombed this lil’ Northern town called Sheffield and Mudcats Blues Trio are back into the fold, livers well tanned by gallons of whisky and late night practice sessions and a distinctive visual art element that seems a bit “WANTED”-poster.
All good, that.
Burn Down the City should be pegged on the “difficult second album” (aka the sophomore slump) but that’s not what this is. True, it’s a sequel of sorts to The Tesla Recordings, but instead of slouching around and delivering the same dish, there’s a bit of ante-uppin’. Saxophone, harmonica and even a ballad (sorta) appear in this release.
‘Can’t stop losing you’ kicks, harmonica on tow and a couple of mentions of Ol’ Scratch (is there a crossroads in Sheffield?) and the quintessential theme of Blues: loss. It’s not all about failed relationships and empty piggy banks, though, as ‘Sweet Blood Call’ talks about domestic violence and although it’s a great Blues song, it’s a harsh story to hear, especially when you come from a country like mine. En fin.
Things come in threes (good or bad) and this album has three rather excellent moments. The first one is the very fierce ‘Burning Down the City’, which starts with that sound we’ve called in the office the “mudcat purr” (it’s a hammer on-off thingy). ‘Burn Down the City’ is one of those signature songs for a band, identifying the primer that makes up the DNA of the band and creating some rather fascinating monster with it.
The sax-heavy ‘Only the blues remain’ brings rainy alleys and a walk home when you’re down on your luck (we’ve all been there) and ‘Mudcat Boogie’ could be the song when you get back on your feet and blow it all out in alcohol and loose women (the rest you just wasted – zing!) ‘Friend of mine’ and ‘Born to die’ are more old school Blues, slow but burning (like whisky treacle).
‘Stop playing the blues’ might bring you down a bit but worry not, as the second big hit of the album is just around to lift you from the ground and chastise you. I’m talking of ‘Whiskey & Wine’, a particular highlight of their live sets. Happy to see the recorded version capturing the tenacious energy of this track. I still would recommend you see them live, not only for this song, but for the whole show. Blues, proper.
‘Deeper than my grave’ is a great surprise; full of attitude and well-dressed for the occasion. ‘Ain’t nobody’s business’ goes hand in hand with the slow, groovy ballad ‘Good night blues’, both the deepest shades of aquamarine you can hear from Mudcats Blues Trio. You can’t close an album like this on a downer so ‘Left my heart in Chicago’, the third and final strongest hit in this superb blues collection, closes the release with a cracking thunder. Dynamic, aesthetically pleasing and full of panache, it even has a bravado-fuelled solo for anyone needing a bit of a shake-up.
The snow has melted. Daylight Savings is on and the Sun is starting to peek, hopefully soon it will stop being a nesh numpty. Mudcats Blues Trio hopefully will bring some good vibrations, their own ale and high energies to a rather bitter spring. Burn-ing down the city indeed.
Words: Sam “Gushin’ Brian O’Hickey” J. Valdés López