Muddy Summers and her Dirty Field Whores have recently released a 7 track EP of cover versions and a very interesting selection of songs it is too.
Muddy Summers is of course know and loved by many in her other persona as Gail Something – Else, she of the Something-Else tea tent and a series of grassroots music festivals. Whilst at this years Something-Else-In-The Dean music festival I was listening to here band in the company of some friends when one friend (who shall remain nameless) remarked “This band are great, Gail’s isn’t the best but it all seems to work”. I had that comment in mind when I sat down to listen to the EP (or mini-album).
Lets get that issue out of the way first off. When Gail sings she does have a limited range. This however is not a bad thing. When you listen to the way these songs are interpreted I hope you will understand what i mean. Gail’s voice is slightly gruff, a little breathy and throaty, she paces the songs slowly and they are delivered with feeling. Now when I say here range is limited she sticks to the key she is comfortable with. She doesn’t attempt vocal gymnastics. When I say her range is limited it is limited in the same way as Eliza Carthy’s range is limited. I was reminded of Carthy as I listened. If you are not familiar with Eliza think Marlene Dietrich or Marianne Faithful. A limited range didn’t do any of them any harm.
Next to the musicianship; I can sum this up in two words, excellent throughout! The album is largely acoustic, guitar, banjo, accordion, harmonica and keyboards being the main players. It is all played sympathetically and with feeling, entirely in keeping with the mood of the whole piece.
The songs: Opener ‘Bella Ciao’ has a distinctly Mediterranean feel which is entirely in keeping with its roots as an italian anti-fascist folk song, I suspect this version has it roots in the version released on Chumbawamba’s acoustic album A Singsong and a Scrap.
Next up is a nice version of the Inner Terrestrials anti violence anthem Battlefield. The Smugglers Song is a musical interpretation of a Rudyard Kipling poem which has been a staple folk song in Norfolk and elsewhere for some time. Devon’s Show of Hands used large tracts of the poem on the track ‘The Napoli’ on their Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed album. I really liked this version as it carries a lot of the menace that coming up against a team of smugglers would have carried in Kipling’s day.
Finger’s is a cover of a song by ‘Les Carter’s’ Abdoujaparov and ‘Wind Blows’ a cover of a song by Jonny Daniels from Pure Evil. So five great tracks by a litany of great bands but it has to be said that this EP saves the best for last. The final two tracks are simply brilliant. The first is a cover of the brilliant Doozer McDooze’s “Ain’t gonna beg for this’ and the final track is a superb cover of a ‘Funke and the Two Tone Baby’ track ‘Tomorrow Brings a Better Day’. This is a quite brilliant cover, the highlight of the whole piece for me is a section where the lyrics are whispered over a plucked guitar part. It is simply superb.
Now lets get serious for a moment. Gail Something-Else runs her Tea Tent and her grassroots festivals for a reason that in my humble opinion is beyond reproach. She gives artists a platform to perform. In an era when it is increasingly difficult for musicians to get a break Gail does all she can, and a little bit more, to give musicians an opportunity to showcase their talents. The project has been a huge success, so much so that Gail now needs to expand and improve her facilities. This EP is released as a fundraising project. If, like me, you believe in what Gail is doing then, go here and spend a couple of quid on this great EP.
Better still go here and make a donation to help this brilliant project.