Chickasaw Mudd Puppies – Fall Line (Strolling Bones Records)
When Georgia’s Chickasaw Mudd Puppies last put out a record, Nirvana was just starting to take over the world, Michael Bolton was still a couple of years away from becoming a punchline and Taylor Swift was only two years old. Thirty-one years later, the band – led by Brant Slay (vocalist, washboard, harmonica) and Ben Reynolds (vocalist, percussion, electric guitar) – are finally back. This time with new member and drummer Alan “Lumpy” Cowart.
The band’s swamp funk, blues-fused music took a little bit of influence from The Cramps, Willie Dixon (who produced the band’s early efforts), Tom Waits and who knows who else but fit perfectly into the late ‘80s. early ‘90s eclectic Athens’ music scene. And like Rip Van Winkle waking from a decades like nap, on Fall Line, the band picks up right where they left off. Across 13 tracks, the trio weave in and out of genres. “Flatcar,” one of the band’s first singles off the record is a driving, remarkably satisfying straight ahead rock tune with dark lyrical undertones but sung over guitar lines and drumming that instantly pull you in.
The inspiration for it, oddly enough, came from a discussion Reynolds was having with some buddies about the superiority of waxed cardboard. “My wandering mind took over from there … I’ve never been in the song character’s situation, but I was living in some pretty dark mental places myself at the time this song was written. Although undiagnosed at the time, it turns out I have a profound but hidden cognitive disability. The character’s struggles, choices, and demons were metaphors for my own path.”
And the very next track, “Scale,” is mellower musically, but just as powerful (sounding a bit like fellow Georgians and one time scene mates Guadalcanal Diary). The album closes on “Little Man,” a slow burn that builds to an impressive boil and stays with you long after the song has stopped playing.
While a Chickasaw Mud Puppies reunion may not have been top of mind for many (anyone?) at the start of 2023, Fall Line proves the band still has plenty left to say. Find the music here: https://chickasawmuddpuppies.bandcamp.com/album/fall-line-2