Muddy Gurdy – Homecoming
CD: 11 Songs, 45 Minutes
Styles: Hill Country Blues, Drone/Trance Blues, Blues Covers
“You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.” ― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
The same holds true for music. Whether blues musicians are household names, unknowns, or somewhere in between, they all have one thing in common: they’ve been swept away by the rapturous riptide of sound, emotion, and subconscious undercurrents of the songs they play. Only then can they hope to do the same to others. Only then have they earned the right to call themselves artists instead of hopefuls or wannabes. It’s one thing to pursue a dream. It’s quite another to have a dream pursue you, obsess you, engulf you.
Muddy Gurdy, an esoterically potent drone/trance blues ensemble from France, knows this well. Listening to their latest album, Homecoming, is akin to drinking bona-fide absinthe (which still exists). Their power doesn’t lie in volume, showmanship or swagger. It lies in subtlety and nuance – two words to which some fans are allergic. If you’re looking for LOUD, go with Walter Trout. This isn’t his kind of blues. Muddy Gurdy’s blues is for tuning in, peeling back the layers of instrumentation until you find the core, or zoning out and letting the core find you.
On eleven numbers – four originals and seven covers – they explore the wonders of traditional blues while adding their own exotic ingredients. Take the first two tracks, “Lord Help the Poor and Needy” by Jessie Mae Hemphill and “Chain Gang” by Sam Cooke. The first is a mind-blowing rendition of a song that’s as relevant today as when it was originally written. It starts out with Tia Gouttebel’s heart-rending acapella intro, then explodes into a frantic, percussive, hard-driving plea for mercy in a race against our inevitable mortality, “when we all rise together.” The second takes a prisoners’ ballad and morphs it into an angsty barroom anthem, featuring brilliant guitar and defiant chanting. The most intriguing original composition is “Land’s Song,” a romping, stomping call to action with unexpected poignancy: “I sing for you. You help me too. ‘Tis the power of one. Hard luck and pain. Here comes the rain. Will our crop be saved?” The French solo in the middle may be incomprehensible to your average American farmer, but the sentiment is crystal clear – anger and frustration intermingled with reverence for the land. “Strange Fruit” has a strange intro, but everyone knows (or should know) what the “fruit” is. “Tell Me You Love Me” ends things on an upbeat, hopeful note, the only danceable track here.
Muddy Gurdy consists of Tia Gouttebel on lead vocals and guitar, Giles Chabenat on hurdy-gurdy, and Marc Glomeau on percussion and vocals. Special guests include Eric and Didier Champion, Maxence Latremoliere, Louis Jacques and Guillaume Vargoz.
Muddy Gurdy’s blues is wild, freewheeling, unexpected. Don’t try to figure it out. Instead, let yourself be swept away by this entrancing CD. Maybe you’ll have a Homecoming of your own!