Mudslide Charley – Clearwater Junction
11 songs – 52 minutes
Clearwater Junction is the fifth album from Mudslide Charley, a very impressive blues band based out of Missoula, Montana. Featuring 11 self-written tracks, this is an album of superb modern blues, incorporating hints of soul and roots rock, and is well worth investigating.
The band comprises Liza Ginnings on lead vocals, Roger Moquin on drums and vocals, Russ Parson on keys and vocals, Phil Hamilton on harmonica, saxophone, guitars, percussion and vocals, Marco Littig on slide/lead guitar and vocals and Paul Kelly on bass and vocals. In addition, Lee Rizzo, Christine Littig and Georgia Littig all provide backing vocals and Jeff Stickney guests on trumpet. The band make maximum use of having so many good singers available, layering the vocals hypnotically on tracks such as “Stop Talking”, emphasizing the bridge/chorus in the early rock’n’roll of opening track, “Other Shoe”, or in answering the perhaps previously unaddressed question: “what would Queen have sounded like if they had been a blues band from Montana?” in “Lil’ Miss Molasses”.
The band are comfortable essaying a wide range of blues-influenced styles. So “Bootsy Basil” centers around a catchy single note riff from Littig, while the Blues-Rock of “Long Death Ride” features some deep harmonica from Hamilton. The bass-led “Don’t Look Back” features a nod to “Amazing Grace on slide guitar, a spoken word verse and an ace solo from Parson, while “Look Away” channels the band’s inner Gospel (and it’s so worth waiting for the five minute mark on this track, at which point the band achieves lift-off). “Reactionary Man” and “Juniper Girl” both highlight Littig’s top drawer steel guitar playing, and the minor key “Stop Talking” recalls the reggae influence of The Neville Brothers’ “Yellow Moon”. Even on the Rolling Stones-esque “Road to Brookston”, the band’s blues influences shine through with a riotous honky tonk piano solo from Parson.
Lyrically too, the band is not afraid to gently push the envelope whilst remaining very much within the blues genre. So while “Juniper Girl” is a love song from Littig to his wife, “Don’t Look Back” tells the story of a veteran and “Other Shoe” contains the memorably wry couplet at the end of each verse: “Working my way to the bottom from the top, waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
And while various band members lay down impressive solos, this is an album of blues songs, not an excuse for the guitar player to stretch out for chorus after chorus, as is seen in so many other modern blues albums.
Clearwater Junction was recorded in Hamilton’s basement, with Richard McIntosh as sound engineer and mastering by Will Borza. All involved deserve recognition for capturing such excellent performances. Warmly recommended.