Once a week I bring you the #ThursdayReview, a fresh review of an Arizona Indie Record. Be sure to SUBSCRIBE and SUPPORT THE BANDS! This Week: Mississippi Nova | The Desert In Winter
Swampy Space Blues
Swampy. What exactly is that?
When we talk music, we toss these terms around like confetti: Southern Rock, Swampy Blues, Death Disco, Power Pop, Southwestern Rock, Grunge Rock, Mumble Rap. The list goes on and on, and these descriptors become common terms. But when you sit down to try to define these terms, it gets difficult. You end up hemming and hawwing, and eventually saying something like, “Well you know, swampy: like The Bayou Bandits“, when all you really know is that Joshua Strickland is from Louisiana.
Levees breaking, and hurricanes. That is swampy, right? As defined on Wikipedia:
“Swamp Blues is a type of Lousiana Blues that developed around Baton Rouge in the 1950s and 60s. It incorporated influences from other genres, particularly zydeco and Cajun. Swamp Blues has a laid back, slow tempo, and is characterized by simple but effective guitar work, eerie echos, shuffle beats, tremolo guitars, searing harmonica and sparce percussion. The popularity of the genre faded in the 70s, with many swamp bluesmen turning to Zydeco which remained popular with black audiences in and around New Orleans and the south.”
But somewhere in there the rock n rollers found it, the white boys found it, the blues moved to Chicago, and the sound of the trains replaced the slurp of the mud. Scrapping down there in the south, like two notes sparring for the soul of the measure, the concept of Southern Rock and Swampy Blues became something different. Because when we hear “Swampy Space Blues” – we do not think of Zydeco. In fact, most of us here in the Southwest probably do not even know what that is.
And… simple guitar work, this is not.
Harnessing a sonic wall of power, distortion and melody this heavy blues rock band provides a slew of grungy, soulful rock and roll oozing dusty blues vibes
And it starts to become clear. Swamp Blues came from mismatching metaphors. Trying to describe the feel of something, and thinking less about the history of it. Sonic Walls of powerful sound, distortion heavy guitars, grungy rock, and ooze…. these are the feels of the swamp, or what we imagine that swamp to be.
What I feel immediately upon listening to I’m Not The One You Had in Mind, the first single coming next week from The Desert in Winter, is that Mississippi Nova is firmly on course to bring that swampy muddiness home to flourish and mature in the dust and the dirt and stings of the scorpions of the Southwest.
I’m Not the One You Had In Mind
In one week, you will hear the first single from The Desert In Winter, and it is at once familiar and strikingly different from the last outing you heard from Mississippi Nova.
Sparse percussion is not at all what this band does.
And that is my first take away all the way through this record. Driving, time changing, exciting, experimental drums.
What should the first single of a record be? Something strikingly new and different, or something that feels familiar and warm and comfortable. I’m Not the One... feels very much like the happy crossroads between those two schools of thought.
If I have a favorite track on this new record, at least after three full listens, it is song two: Take the Torch. This song has a driving rhythm, a strong guitar solo, and just pounding and exilerating drums. As a single, it is the song on the record that embodies Mississippi Nova‘s evolution. Progressive timing, experimental instrumental sequences, and a maturing sense of song writing. This record feels like it grew up, chewed on something minty and gnarly and embraced it fully while trying to discover what it was.
Recycle or the song I will affectionately call The Dirty Vampire Song is the odd duck of Side A. It is very swampy… did we ever define that? It feels unproduced, dirty, less clean. The song in some ways actually sounds more like a demo than a complete track on the record, but in many ways that feels by design. That part of the grit and the tarnish of Mississippi Nova‘s sound and tone and whole vibe… is like a brilliant supernova….. that is coming at you from a distance. From the dark, and the murk, and the heaviness of forbidden places. And that is cool, and it makes you want to recycle your teeth into the heart of it, over and over again.
Before I Go: Bass and Blues. This is a really good song. It starts off heavy on the bass, and moves into beautifully picked sticcato notes. It shifts easily from those blues to the grunge and heaviness of the chorus, and again the drums and rhythm section are standout on this record. While you listen to that repeated line, Before I go, I’m gonna take you the long way down…. and that jam, that avenue, that long way down….. is the part of the song you want to listen to on repeat. Just drum heavy dirty bluesy goodness.
Side A comes to a close, and Side B opens up with a great transition. Sunrise Rider is not a complex song. It sets an image, and then gives a soundtrack to it. Like we are standing on an open highway, watching a rider tearing across the asphault away from us on the chromed shiny metal horse he rides. But then we are Gallivanting with that rider, a passenger, with the desert wind kicking this song into a cadence that almost feels like Just What I Needed from The Cars…. if they were…. swampier.
No Time For Buffalo What really sticks out to me about this record is its sense of maturation from the band’s first album. Often times we find outselves looking for that Sophomore Slump, where a band just cannot live up to our expectations. This record is not that. It is playful. It is confident. It has no problem turning the dirty swampiness down, and turning the progressive spaciness up.
PKGL (Plant Kindness and Gather Love) plays with that confidence. It almost wants to be punk rock with power chords layered over a wall of percussion. It once again retains that gritty demo quality, but not the effect of feeeling incomplete. It is more about allowing the song to swell, and move from being a simple punk riff to being a full on progressive jam session. I asked my wife once about the power of the blues. I mean we have all heard that… da na na nat. da na na nat. Simple blues progression. The beauty and power of the blues is what kind of fun you are able to have within the limits of the genre. The part of Mississippi Nova that takes them from the Swamp to Outer Space, is their ability to fluidly mix blues with progressive arrangements, and break the rules of the genre right open.
Tell The Bottle. It was very cool when Robby sent me the files for The Desert In Winter, he gave me the album track list so that I could “have the full experience”, and I am really glad that he did. This record ought to be listened to, as a record. Side A feels radio ready, like songs meant to be singles. Side B feels like Hemispheres.
I love records like that. Records that feel like the chaos that produced a hella wicked hangover. You can’t quite remember what the hell slammed you last night, but because of that you know it must have been good! As you are propelled through the experimentation of Fly Above the Storm and then soothed into the final title track with a simple acoustic melody that almost takes you to High Plains Drifter I felt like Side B had me in a duel between Space Ace and Clint Eastwood.
You feel like you are experiencing something, trying to decipher this madness in the record’s depth and layers. It is like a thinking man’s puzzle – everything that is NOT but it has a beat and you can dance to it. It leaves me thinking about possibilities: what this would have been like, what if that note was cleaner, what if that one was clipped off? What if what if what if….. and that is the only reason it is 4 skulls. When you are listening to the blues, you know it when it is perfect. It strikes the tuning fork, and all you can think is “mmmm, yes. Word. Preach. Bring it!” And that is beautiful. When it fills your mind with wonder and what could have been…. that is a different feeling, but no less exciting. And music really should be, if nothing else, something that lights us on fire, excites us, and makes something inside vibrate that we didnt know we had.
It’s not butter. It’s not smooth. It does not lure you into a safe place. It is dirty. It is gritty. It is less precise. It is less polished. It has no inner shine. It takes you down into the dirt and the muck and the mud before it spits you into the darkess of space…. to dance with scorpions.
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