On the Radar: Mud Walk

Posted in On the Radar on October 22nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Dually-fronted Swedish six-piece Mud Walk recorded their latest EP, The Drifter’s Forgotten Lore, in San Francisco earlier this year. Released by Ella Music Nation, it’s a five-track collection of unpretentious retro heavy rock, fervent in its groove and varied between the warm low-end vibing of “I’m Good When I Hear the Guns” and the unmitigated shuffle of “On the Loose,” which has enough early ’70s swagger in its execution to live up to its title. Put to tape at the US Women’s Audio Mission, it’s a thickened garage stomper with bluesy thrust and soulful vocals vying for prominence in a way that only adds to the excitement of the listen.

The Drifter’s Forgotten Lore is Mud Walk‘s second EP behind 2011′s Barefoot Band, and is more than cohesive enough to make me wonder what the band might be able to do with a full-length release. Much of the focus inevitably is going to be on vocalists Johanna Bayard (also harmonica) and Anna-Stina Jungerstam — one can almost see the line forming to make mostly inaccurate comparisons to Heart circa Dreamboat Annie — but on opener “Alaska” (also the longest track at 4:47; points), guitarists Stina Årman-Assargård and Liv Platzer lack nothing for presence or prominence, and throughout the release, the double-Jonna rhythm section of bassist/backing vocalist Jonna Wikblad and drummer Jonna Karlsson consistently provide the foundation that keeps it all together.

To wit, “Sole Times” seems to be a moodier waltz at first, with vocals further back in their analog echo, adding to the psychedelic vibing, but in the final third, Wikblad underscores a start-stop riff with some classic funk and the sense of movement so prevalent throughout The Drifter’s Forgotten Lore is revived. Likewise, though Bayard‘s harmonica features heavily in the 2:50 closer, “Hounded,” it’s the rolling groove that emerges near the halfway point that makes the track such a landmark to end the EP. It’s a strong release from a young band with a firm handle on their aesthetic, more fully produced than the first, but still natural-sounding, and however much bell-bottomed worship seems to emerge from Sweden, acts like Mud Walk seem to be able to maintain their own spin on the style even as they affirm the tropes of the burgeoning subgenre.

The EP is available now from Ella Music Nation — I don’t have Spotify, but apparently Mud Walk is on Spotify — and they’re on Thee Facebooks and Twitter as well. The EP isn’t streaming publicly anywhere to the best of my knowledge, so here’s the video for the title-track to Barefoot Band, which should still give some idea of what Mud Walk are all about.

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