Down In The Alley Records
12 songs – 61 minutes
da Mudcats first formed in 1985 and its members, in a variety of different line-ups, have been stalwarts of the blues scene in Louisville, Kentucky for over 30 years. In 2015, the stars aligned sufficiently to enable the group to reunite with a line-up of vocalist Susan O’Neil, guitarist Rob Pickett, bassist Mike Lynch, drummer Gene Wickcliffe and keyboardist/vocalist Doug Lamb. Wickcliffe, Pickett and O’Neil were all original members of the very first line-up of the band, while Lamb was a member in the mid-to late 90s and Lynch has held the bass chair for the last 15 years.
After nine months of writing and rehearsal, da Mudcats played a show for a specially invited audience at Mom’s Music in Louisville. That show was recorded and Easy Does It is the result.
From the very first note of the opening number, “The Curse”, the band hits the ground running with a toe-tapping groove underpinning a blues-rock chord progression, Wickcliffe’s deceptively simple drum pattern creating an irresistible drive. Pickett sets out his stall with three well-taken guitar solos (this is a live show recording, after all), displaying a lucid, flowing style that recalls Larry Carlton in the way it straddles blues and jazz and in the sophistication of the note choices. O’Neil’s voice has a warm huskiness to it as she picks melody lines that also suggest a love of jazz as well as blues.
“Don’t Blame The Blues” is a slower minor key track with gospel-like backing vocals from Pickett, Lamb and Lynch, lovely keyboards from Lamb and more on-the-money drumming from Wickcliffe. Indeed, the Wickcliffe-Lynch rhythm section excels throughout the entire album.
Things get a little grittier on “Don’t Want To Think About It” before easing into the keyboard-led slow blues of “Bring Me Some Blues”, with its echoes of Paris, France. The blues-rock title track is based around another funky guitar riff from Pickett, who also wrote the track, and wah-wah-like keys from Lamb. While O’Neil and Pickett wrote the majority of tracks together, a number of different musicians contributed to the different songs, helping to ensure a broad canvas of styles.
The funky “Touch The Moon”, for example, comes from Lynch’s pen, while the jazzy “Fooled Again” is credited to Cain/O’Neil and the 80s-style blues-rock ballad of “World Gone Mad” (with its very apposite message about gun control) was written by Lamb, O’Neil and Pickett.
The gentle shuffle of “Not Your Mama” adopts an intriguing chord progression, with a memorable descending keyboard figure at the end of each verse, while “Down To The Delta” has a deliberate stutter-like quality. The closing tracks, the upbeat “Untouchable” and stomping “Sugar Daddy” both contain some fine old-fashioned honky-tonk piano.
It is obvious from Easy Does It that da Mudcats must be a blast to witness at a live show. The album is a highly enjoyable collection of blues-rock-soul and a hint or two of jazz that will particularly appeal to those who enjoy the smoother side of the genre. If your tastes lean towards the likes of Robert Cray, O.V. Wright or Curtis Salgado, you will find a lot to enjoy in da Mudcats.