The 40 Acre Mule – Goodnight & Good Luck | Album Review

The 40 Acre Mule – Goodnight & Good Luck

State Fair Records SFR 109

10 songs – 36 minutes

A powerhouse five-piece band that produces music that comes from the crossroads of blues, rock, country and soul, The 40 Acre Mule make their recording debut with this hard-driving, hard-to-classify collection of originals.

Formed in Dallas in 2015 and self-described as a “rhythm-and-blues outfit,” they’ve built a huge word-of-mouth following across Texas by playing bars and roadhouses and delivering tunes that remain close to the blues root regardless of their varied influences, which include Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, J.D. McPherson, Nathaniel Rateliff and Gary Clark Jr.

Their first break came after being discovered by promoter Scott Beggs and Jim Heath, aka The Reverend Horton Heat, who booked them as the opening act for a sold-out show at the Bomb Factory, the 50,000-sq. ft. venue that’s played host to Phish, Nine Inch Nails, The Ramones and other top acts since opening in the mid-‘90s

The band’s fronted by J. Isaiah Evans on guitar and vocals with John Pedigo on rhythm and backing vocals, Robert Anderson on percussion, Tim Cooper on bass, baritone sax player/percussionist Chris Evetts and Chad Stockslager, who doubles on piano and organ. Their material, all of which drives forward heavily, features the rhythm section high in the mix.

Evans penned all ten songs in the set. The ballad “You Better Run” opens the action with a simple, repeated guitar hook before pulling out of the station powerfully atop a steady, heavy beat. It’s a warning to a transgressor that he’ll “find mercy at the end of this here gun.”

The action heads up with the blues-rocker “16 Days,” which describes a bad breakup and the mayhem and extended jail stay that followed – all of which is propelled by an ultra-speedy speedy shuffle and single-note guitar runs.

The funk kicks in with “Shake Hands with the Devil,” aided by a repeated horn riff. This one finds the singer riverside and awaiting baptism only to hear the preacher tell him there’s not enough clean water in the world to wash away his sins. The feel continues in “Make up Your Mind,” which opens with the familiar line “you know that I love you, baby” before describing a lady who prefers to be out with her friends.

The theme continues in “Be with Me,” which begins as a quiet ballad before picking up intensity as it yearns for companionship with a woman whose parents prefer that she’d go in another way, “Somethin’ Next to Nothin’” and “I’ll Be Around” before the tempo and texture change with ballad “Hat in Hand,” delivered from the position of man who realizes life might be better if he weren’t around.

“Bathroom Walls,” a driving description of a Saturday night party in a double-wide trailer, follows before the original, “Josephine,” hints of the Chuck Berry classic to bring the set to a close.

Highlights include “Shake Hands with the Devil,” the uptempo R&B “Make Up Your Mind,” “Somethin’ Next to Nothin’” and “Josephine,” a rocking number that hits of the Chuck Berry classic. An original approach for folks who like a band with plenty of pop. The 40 Acre Mule holds nothing back.

Available from Amazon and several digital platforms, The 40 Acre Mule holds nothing back. Hard-core blues fans might find this one a little wanting. But if your tastes lean more toward rock, Goodnight & Good Luck might be for you. It’s definitely different.

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