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.