For a large part of the year most of us have been confined to barracks, either furloughed in Fulham or else locked down in Lincoln, working from home hosting intercontinental Zoom meetings or else developing and then fighting Strictly Bake Off addictions. Others have spent their time more wisely, indeed closer to home Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores whose natural milieu – the world of challenging toilets, bespoke henna tattoos and daft pixie hats has been cordoned off. Faced with spending days and nights attempting to book holidays and supermarket delivery spots they have instead stockpiled an LP of songs, spent two weeks recording, mixing and mastering them individually at home and called it, presumably as an elegy to festival land, the Elegance of Mud.
Their website describes them as a ‘radical feistyfolkpunkswingpop’ and anyone who puts out Cameran, I Would Call You a Cunt certainly bristles with attitude. Overall it’s an impressive affair with a high level of songwriting, all originals save the closer Bella Ciao, that 19th century Italian protest song, and practically a standard but here given a lyrical twist. Strictly acoustic, a chipper guitar generally sets the pace and the other instruments; banjo (oh how I love the plucked gut), piano, sympathetic percussion fall in behind and attempt to catch up. Strong harmonies too. Melodies and solos tend to be handled by Lizzie Norris’ violin, or fiddle which could lead to a feeling of over familiarity creeping in but the Dirty Field Whores combat this by throwing little bombs into the mix – for instance the play on the nursery rhyme of This Little Piggy at the start and close of Piggies is particularly effective as are the effects on the fiddle on Bella Ciao or the musical box that opens Crack Den.
Lullaby The subject matter is political, and there is a clever play off between bright tunes and dark lyrics, indeed the whiff of rebellion hangs as heavy in the air as campfire smoke. Elsewhere expletives are placed carefully in the mix (House of Lords, Don’t Play Chess With Chickens) for maximum effect. The festival scene is their stomping ground and as I write this it hasn’t been long since Glastonbury cancelled, no doubt meaning that others will follow in its wake. It’s not known whether Rupert Brooke would have thrived in a mosh pit or found anything elegiac in a long drop toilet but for now let us remember that there’s some corner of a farmers field that is forever MacStock, Woodstock or Nozstock. So, take The Elegance of Mud and wallow in it and take a bow Gail Something-Else, Lizzie Morris, Aimee Bee and Ran Stedman – and rave on