Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on The Muddy Roses, a San Francisco-based roots outfit that has just released their eponymous debut EP. The four song endeavor is a fascinating insight into the collaborative process between the band’s three core members: John LoGiudici, Diana Greenberg, and Elizabeth Lewis. The trio are backed by a slew of other remarkably talented studio musicians and Dean Kattari, a producer known for his work with on KFOG's 'Live From the Archive' series, an effort which featured artists the likes of Adele, ZZ Top, and many more! Let’s delve deep into the four tunes!
Out of the gate, The Muddy Roses establish themselves as a rather unique act with their opening number, ‘Good Love Gone Wrong.’ There are a bevy of influences seeping their way into every note of the track. It’s a country tune that toys with common tropes in the genre, but it’s performed in a rootsy style with fiddle and electric guitar bouncing off one another in a blissful soundscape of authentic, good-feeling country style excitement.
Lead vocalist Elizabeth Lewis does an elegant job at the front of the group’s sound, too, making ‘Good Love Gone Wrong’ as infectious as it is. Her delivery has a wholly Americana aura to it, perhaps reminiscent of Lucinda Williams in her country-infused era or Suzanne Santo of HoneyHoney in the contemporary scene. The foot-stomping instrumentation deserved a great vocal performance on ‘Good Love Gone Wrong,’ and fortunately, that’s exactly what it got.
As jolly of a time ‘Good Love Gone Wrong’ certainly is, the band finds their emotional stride on ‘The Hurting Side,’ a stunning excursion through Lewis’ heartbroken, melancholy croons, pedal steel and nylon string guitars, and gorgeous violin sections. It’s the kind of song one might find being played in a dimly lit, smoke filled dive bar in Texas at two in the morning on a Wednesday. It creates an atmosphere of pining, heartbreak, and regret that only classic style country music can truly manage to do.
The instrumental performances on ‘The Hurting Side’ shine as especially powerful, too, particularly the nylon stringed guitar performance. Sparse, but immensely effective, the style of playing is akin to, perhaps, Willie Nelson’s signature classical guitar style. The band is perfectly in step with one another as well; the chemistry of The Muddy Roses is palpable.
This self-titled EP reaches its highest point on the third track, ‘Long Black River.’ Chronicling the story of a mending heart, there’s a vulnerable, spine-tingling honesty to the track that is simply captivating. The song, which sounds like it could be out of the songbook of Iris DeMent or Holly Williams, is beautifully penned, offering some resolution to the heartbreak mused about on ‘The Hurting Side.’
‘Long Black River’ is also an excellent example of song sequencing, something The Muddy Roses have mastered wonderfully on this EP. ‘Good Love Gone Wrong’ draws the listener in with its joyful romp, ‘The Hurting Side’ establishes an emotional base for the record, and ‘Long Black River’ is the collection’s peak with its anthemic performance and lyrics. The transitions between each of those three songs are parts of life anybody can relate to. Then, ‘Nothing to Trade’ closes out that perfect sequence gorgeously.
‘Nothing to Trade’ is, in some ways, a spiritual partner to ‘The Hurting Side.’ Instead of the pain of its predecessor, however, ‘Nothing to Trade’ is rooted in an aura of finality and resolution. It’s sonically similar to ‘The Hurting Side,’ too, doused in atmospheric steel and acoustic guitars in a splendid fashion. The vocal harmonies on the choruses are lovely, too, making ‘Nothing to Trade’ an incredibly enjoyable finale to the EP.
There’s a very authentic, rootsy sound to The Muddy Roses that doesn’t come across my desk very often. I’ll either receive “contemporary country” independent artists, which are essentially pop musicians with a twang, or derivative acts that sound like they’re trying too hard to mimic their heroes. The Muddy Roses have their own sound, blended together with country and Americana influences to great effect.
Thus, this is absolutely an EP worth exploring in great depth. It’s superb from beginning to end, and it’s indicative of The Muddy Roses being an act worth following closely moving forward.