REVIEW

Blues Blast Magazine: “You’ll love this hour-long CD”

 The blues world is an interesting place –both because of the musicians who make the music and the diversity of sounds that emerge when different musical styles seemingly collide. The latter’s the case for this different and extremely interesting production, which combines some of the biggest names in North Mississippi Hill Country blues with a trio of Europeans who’ve melded French folk music with the American sound they’ve come to love.

Muddy Gurdy is composed of a trio who reinvented themselves after a successful folk career in France under the moniker of Hypnotic Wheels. The unit includes Tia Gouttebel on guitar and vocals, Marc Glomeau on percussion and Gilles Chabenat, who provides vocals in addition to playing the hurdy-gurdy, the instrument that provides half of the band’s name. […]

“Tia In The Rocking Chair” opens the set, and is exactly as titled: 46 seconds of peace, quiet and the sound of Gouttebel rocking gently in her seat on a porch. It’s a great mood setter for R.L. Burnside’s “Goin’ Down South,” which follows. From the first notes of this one, you realize quickly that this trio understand their medium and deliver it with great feel. Chabenat’s hurdy-gurdy mimics guitar lines in a warm, haunting manner as he trades licks with Gouttebel’s guitar atop a repetitive drum pattern. Gilles and Tia share vocals, and the hurdy-gurdy adds new, deep sounds to the traditional feel.

The instrument takes on the air of a violin as Cedric takes to the mike for his uptempo original “That Girl IS Bad,” which would keep folks up and moving on any juke dance floor, driven by syncopated drum patterns and his acoustic runs on slide. He also handles vocals for dad R.L.’s “See My Jumper Hanging On The Line” and Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ And Tumblin’,” delivered much like the acoustic 1940s original, but taken to a different level because by the hurdy-gurdy sound.

Fife and drum master Otha Turner’s “Station Blues” is up next, aided by granddaughter Sharde. Her voice graces his one as well as her own “Shawty Blues,” a moving ballad about chasing a dream but being misunderstood by the older generation, and a hurdy-gurdy and fife-powered take on the traditional “Glory Glory Hallelujah,” delivered in Hill Country style.

Cameron Kimbrough’s at the mike next for a cover of his original, “Leave Her Alone,” which has a more modern feel with him on electric guitar, and a droning take on granddad Junior’s “Gonna Love You.” Pat Thomas, son of the legendary James “Son” Thomas, joins the action for his ballad “Dream” before Tia holds her own on vocals for an uptempo cover of Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “She Wolf,” Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Shake ‘Em On Down” and Charles Singleton’s “Help The Poor” before a 3-minute, 45-second outro entitled “Highway 61,” which includes sounds of crickets, traffic and a solitary singer/picker delivering “Standing At The Crossroads,” brings the disc to a close.

If you love Hill Country blues, you’ll love this hour-long CD, which is available through most major retailers. The two art forms combine seamlessly and the production will have you feeling like you’re kicking back with the musicians on a warm summer’s eve. If you prefer your tunes urban and electrified, however, this one is definitely worth a listen but might be outside your comfort zone.

By Marty Gunther, in Blues Blast Magazine, about Muddy Gurdy, Hypnotic Wheel’s second CD. Read the full review. 

 

“Muddy Gurdy truly becomes a global affair”

Three French musicians –Tia Gouttebel on vocals and guitar, Marc Glomeau on percussion, and Gilles Chabenet on the hudy gurdy (a traditional French instrument)– had a unique vision to combine the sounds of French music with the thumping drone of the music of the North Mississippi Hill Country.  And what better way to pull that off than to spend some time in that region and immerse yourself in the music, played by some of the descendants of the Hill Country legends.  After a year of preparation, the trio made it to Mississippi, in blues hotbeds such as Leland, Como, and B. B.’s birthplace, Indianola.  The resulting recording is titled “Muddy Gurdy,” and shows how the blues has become a world-wide genre.’  Along for this joyous ride, we have Cedric Burnside, Sharde’ Thomas, Cameron Kimbrough, and Pat Thomas, adding to the air of authenticity due to their heralded lineage.

We were wholly unfamiliar with the hurdy-gurdy, but, in the skilled hands of Gilles, it sounds like a fusion of an accordion and a fiddle.  Within the context of this material, it acts as a second guitar.  The set opens with Cedric Burnside on guitar with a tune written by R. L. Burnside, “Goin’ Down South, where the chilly wind don’t blow.”  He continues with a contemporary shout-out to his late brother wit  the good-time rap of “That Girl Is Bad.”

Sharde’ Thomas brings her fife to the party with a nod to grandfather Otha Turner  in “Station Blues,” a minor-key, dirge-like re-working of “Sittin’ On Top Of The World.” She becomes that “young woman chasin’ that big dream” on “Shawty Blues,” and closes her set with a traditional gospel read of “Glory Glory Hallelujah,” with Gilles’ hurdy-gurdy the perfect foil for her fife.

Cameron Kimbrough captures the energy and power of this music with the grungy  “Gonna Love You,” as does Pat Thomas with our favorite.  The set closes amid traffic noise in the background as Thomas’ eerie vocal takes you right down to the source of the mystery and myths of this region with his version of the crossroads tale, “Highway 61.”

With the addition of the French trio to the music of North Mississippi, “Muddy Gurdy” truly becomes a global affair.  It further proves that two societies, as far apart in miles as they are in culture, can find common ground through the power of the blues!

By Sheryl and Don Crow, from the Nashville Blues Society, about Muddy Gurdy, Hypnotic Wheels’ second album which was released by VizzTone on February 2, 2018.

Read the review on their DonAndSherylBluesBlog

 

Balling the Jack: “Added gallic hurdy-gurdyness”

After That Girl is Bad, featuring Cedric Burnside, last week, Joe Cushley broadcasted Station Blues, a song Hypnotic Wheels recorded with Sharde Thomas on fife and vocals on their Muddy Gurdy CD, on his Balling the Jack show on Resonance FM in London —an inspiring show, not to be missed!

We have got Muddy Gurdy. This is another interesting project. If you were listening last week, the French band Hypnotic Wheels have always had an interest in the blues. Last year went over to North Mississippi and collaborated with some of the native musicians there, including Sharde Thomas, the granddaughter of Otha Turner, fife and drum farmer, and custodian of the old traditions of fife playing. And Cedric Burnside, son of the Burnside blues dynasty. And Pat Thomas…

The Hypnotic Wheels have got a hurdy gurdy player. The sort of mesmeric quality of the hurdy gurdy matched with the drone trance quality of North Mississippi blues. They produced something rather wonderful.

This is Station Blues and it is Sharde Thomas singing. It is from the fife and drums tradition but with added gallic hurdy-gurdyness.

The section starts at 37:15.

“Highly recommended” by Philly Cheeze Blues

Muddy Gurdy is absolutely one of the most interesting blues albums I’ve heard in recent years.  Hypnotic Wheels, a trio of French musicians, Tia Gouttebel (guitar/vocals) Gilles Chabenat(hurdy-gurdy) and Marc Glomeau (percussion) embarked on a journey to the hills of North Mississippi to record with local blues artists who are tightly connected to the fabulous music of their elders.  The recordings were made using a hurdy-gurdy as a second guitar and captured with an eight-microphone preamp and computer in someone’s house, porch, front yard, or historic landmark such as Dockery Farms or B.B. King’s Club Ebony.  From Mississippi, the contributing artists are Cedric Burnside, Shardé Thomas, Cameron Kimbrough, and Pat Thomas.

I love the homage to R.L. Burnside, with the wonderfully hypnotic cover of “Goin’ Down South” and the driving beat of “See My Jumper Hanging on the Line”.  It’s in these two tracks that the wonder of the hurdy-gurdy is revealed.  Its swampy slide-like sound magically lends itself to trance blues music in a very fitting fashion.  Cedric Burnside, grandson to R.L., appears with acoustic guitar in hand and mic for a beautiful performance.  He pays a wonderful tribute to his late brother Cody Burnside on “That Girl is Bad”, and hangs around for a tantalizing cover of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”.

Muddy Gurdy explores fife and drum music with Shardé Thomas.  Thomas gives a delicate vocal and fife performance on “Station Blues”, a song by her grandfather and fife-master Otha Thomas.  Her delivery of the traditional “Glory Glory Hallelujah” is stunning.

It’s a real treat to hear Cameron Kimbrough, tearing it up on guitar while singing his grandfather Junior’s “Leave Her Alone”. The rolling rhythm pulls me right in to its vortex of sound. Cameron inherently keeps the swirling melodic framework in place for his own original tune, “Gonna Love You”.  Pat Thomas’ “Dream” is downright extraordinary.  Sung and strummed by the son of James “Son” Thomas at the Highway 61 Museum in Leland, Mississippi, this folk-country blues song is a prime example of the inner-beauty of music.

At Dockery Farms, Gouttebel takes the vocal reins on Hypnotic Wheels’ rendition of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s classic “Shake ‘em on Down” which is followed up with a mesmerizing cover of Charles Singleton’s “Help the Poor”, first recorded by B.B. King in 1964.

I highly recommend this album, especially for fans of the North Mississippi Hill Country Blues.

Phillip Smith posted his review of Muddy Gurdy both on Facebook and on his website, phillycheezeblues. And what a review!

Read the review on Philly Cheeze’s website. 

 

4 stars for Roots Music Report

French folk musicians meet North Mississippi blues crusaders, stir two traditions together and make for a mix that’s equal parts front-porch good vibes and Hill Country hoodoo. Hurdy-gurdy player Gilles Chabanat sounds right at home alongside guitarist Cedric Burnside and others on simmering run-throughs of R.L. Burnside’s “Goin’ Down South” and “See My Jumper Hanging On The Line” and Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”.  Fife-and-drum features “Station Blues” and “Glory Glory Hallelujah” are particularly captivating.

By Duane Verh, on Roots Music Report. Read the full review. 

 

Elmore Magazine: “Unbouded vision” and “sheer talent”

The blues had yet another baby, and they called it Muddy Gurdy. Quite the beauty she is, too, crying her tunes straight from the hearts of people, and the souls of places. Though just marginally credited by name, Muddy Gurdy originated with the French trio, Hypnotic Wheels. Comprised of singer/guitarist Tia Gouttebel, percussionist Marc Glomeau, and Gilles Chabenat on the coil-on-strings hurdy-gurdy (thus, the band’s name), all three possess unbounded vision besides sheer talent.

Always inspired by the blues, they decided that for their second album, a first-hand experience in Mississippi was in order. Focused on the absolutely hypnotic music played vibrantly by the kinfolk of legends R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Othar Turner, and James “Son” Thomas, they cut these blues “field-style” with Cedric Burnside, Cameron Kimbrough, Pat Thomas, and Sharde Thomas. The results arouse all kinds of emotion.

The hurdy-gurdy emits a tone right at home in these rural environs, akin to an off-kilter fiddle mimicking a scraped guitar one second, and perhaps an ancient organ wash the next. The first spin of the album may elicit a glance around the room until the realization hits that it’s “Tia In The Rocking Chair,” at night among the crickets, delicate refrains of “Goin’ Down South” escaping her lips.

Then the tough strains of R.L.’s requiem for the virtues of his home hit full-force, North Mississippi-style, but with a touch of—dare I say—class. Gouttebel brings it, along with Cedric Burnside, the two crocheted together like a warm electric blanket. Cedric’s own “That Girl is Bad” follows the tradition, a jumpy blues that bemoans a lover, albeit with humor.

On the traditional “Glory Glory Hallelujah,” the Wheels, with Sharde Thomas on the porch of the Moon Hollow Farm, replicate the sound of her granddaddy Othar Turner’s fife and drum blues with outright glory. Kimbrough evokes the marching beats of his granddad at the same session, on Junior’s “Leave Her Alone.”

Hypnotic Wheels alone close the album, covering Jesse Mae Hemphill (“She Wolf”), Fred McDowell (“Shake ‘em on Down”), and the traditional “Highway 61,” all with incredible spirit at the famed Dockery Farms.

These punchy, wonderful recordings not only propagate the blues. They enrich its character, and most importantly, its significance.

By Tom Clarke, in Elmore Magazine. Read the full review.

 

Making a Scene:
“No doubt, they got it”

This is one of the most interesting collaborations of blues we have heard in some time.  A trio of French musicians – Tia Goutteble (guitar, voice), Gilles Chabenat (Hurdy-Gurdy – a traditional French instrument), and Marc Glomeau (percussion) call themselves the Hypnotic Wheels Trio.  Their music draws its inspiration from traditional French music and North Mississippi Hill Country Blues.  In some respects, it’s like the efforts of groups like Tinariwen from Mali – marrying their native music with American blues.  In this case the Hurdy-Gurdy is used as a second guitar.  This is the first time that music from these two cultures have combined.  So, to make this, their second album, even more authentic, the trio travelled to Mississippi and collaborated with some of the major local artists. |…]

Without recording studios or top shelf technology, field engineer Pierre Bianchi captured these sessions with an 8 microphone preamp and a computer. The recordings took place on front porches, back porches, and historic landmarks in Mississippi. With no gimmicks the sound is not only authentic but especially engaging as you can hear train whistles and highway traffic on occasion. […]

Burnside, Shade Thomas, Kimbrough, and Pat Thomas are all descendants of their prestigious elders (RL Burnside, Otha Turner, Junior Kimbrough, James Son Thomas).  None of the four approach the project with a “take charge” mentality.  Instead, they give humble, passionate performances, immersing themselves in the music. And, these musicians certainly passed on that North Mississippi Hill County feel to the trio.  Listen to Cedric Burnside leading “See My Jumper Hanging on the Line” or Sharde Thomas leading “Glory” and then catch the trio doing Mississippi Fred’s “Shake ‘Em On Down.”  No doubt, they got it.

Read Jim Hynes full review of Muddy Gurdy in Making a Scene

 

No Depression: “The talent […] is immense”

This was something that came in to the house completely unknown in any way shape or form; there was no advanced word about it, no tear sheet in the package, absolutely nothing other than here you are, some Cds in the mail!  When the Cds got here and were opened and laid out the name MUDDY GURDY stood out as well as the photography and beautiful art work on the disc.  It stood out because it was subtle and totally unknown, a complete lack of hype. […]

This is a three person French group that came to the States with the idea of recording an Album with the blues players that populate the North Mississippi Hill Country:  what they wound up doing was getting a new name, Muddy Gurdy (they were The Hypnotic Wheels; Tia Gouttebel {guitar, vocals}, Gilles Chabenat {hurdy-gurdy}, and Marco Glomeau {percussion}), introducing an old French instrument to the people of the Hill Country, and making a damn fine disc that blends traditional French and Blues musics, probably the only one with a hurdy-gurdy on it.  […]

Then you start with some very muffled sounds for about half a minute that don’t really make any sense, and then there is the real start of the disc with the second song.  We won’t ruin all the surprises the disc has to offer, and they are many.  If you are familiar with the North Mississippi Hill Country Blues, this is it as played Cedric Burnside, Sharde Thomas, Cameron Kimbrough,  and Pat Thomas and the talent from both sides of the Atlantic is immense.

This was not recorded in fancy studios in Memphis or Nashville but on back-porches, at people’s farms, and old clubs like the Ebony Club, places that retain the vibrations of the sounds made all those years ago.  If you love Blues you will probably have trouble getting it out of your changer.  This is a disc that you will play for friends and other music people who you wish to turn on to something new/old and exciting.

By Bob Gottlieb, in a story called “foreign + home grown = explosion”.

Read the full (awesome) critique of Muddy Gurdy in No Depression.