Time then for Daniel Meade, Glasgow’s own hillbilly hell raiser, to raise the bar with his third official release and the first album to feature his wingmen, The Flying Mules. The Mules (Meade – guitar and piano, Lloyd Reid – guitar, Mark Ferrie – double bass, Thomas Sutherland – drums) are well kent faces locally with several regular slots in city bars and are veterans of tours with Pokey LaFarge and Sturgill Simpson. Indeed, they appeared as Simpson’s band on his latest Glasgow date, the US chart topper unsure about appearing before a Glasgow audience on his lonesome at the cavernous O2ABC. Meade himself has recently toured supporting and then playing alongside Diana Jones with several of the songs here making their first appearance. Now, hot on the heels of five packed shows in four days at the Kilkenny Roots Festival in Ireland last weekend, The Mules are set to unleash Let Me Off At The Bottom on the world.
Equally at home with Jerry Lee Lewis styled rockers and George Jones like laments Meade has the ability to take country music clichés and turn them into rockabilly poetry, the honky tonk hell raisers and beer stained weepers delivered with a Glaswegian gallusness. There are some fine examples in the rollicking There’s a Headstone Where Her heart Used To Be with Meade explaining, “Well I met lots of women on this rocky road, I love them whether long short or tall. Some for a weekend some twice as long but I still love them all.” Of course he’s derailed by a femme fatale, a merry widow whose lips taste of candy, laughing with his friends as he looks on from beyond. It’s delivered with a vengeance, Meade’s honky tonk piano driving the song with an excellent guitar solo from Reid that’s half Les Paul, half Chet Atkins.
There are several hi-octane belters here, The Mules firing on all cylinders, the rhythm section tight as the proverbial duck, bass supple and slapping while the traps are expertly deployed. Back To Hell opens the album with a locomotive energy, Meade introducing one of the album’s themes, the demon drink, from the beginning. It’s a breathless dash from start to finish, again Reid throws in one of his seemingly effortless solos, the notes curling from his guitar sweet as honey. Ghosts and Crocodiles has a jug band like infectiousness to it while Please Louise is a guaranteed crowd pleaser as Meade tries to back pedal from a shotgun marriage, his lyrics delivered expertly over the barrelhouse keyboards and fretboard wizardry, a Jordonaires type chorus the icing on the cake. He hasn’t learned his lesson on the avaricious rocker Lock Up You Daughter and it’s back to the drink for the closing The Bottle Called For Me, a saloon bar knockabout that ends with a good old rabble rousing chorus.
As infectious as these songs are (and a good indication of how superb the band are live) The Mules have other strings to their bow. As evidenced on his last album Meade can turn his hand to old time country songs and waltzes (as on his duet with Diana Jones on Help Me Tonight) and there’s a brace of these sadder tear stained moments on the album. Meade has an acute grasp on the topics that engaged George Jones and Hank Williams (heartbreak mostly), while his voice can convey the hurt just as well as the good times. He Should Have Been Mine laments with a fine plaintive piano and Poison Dart lopes along with some sweet guitar curls and a lonesome prairie feel. Best of all is the powerful confessional of Leave Me To Bleed, Meade, superbly accompanied by Siobhan Wilson on harmonies, reaching into the darker recesses of country music, his bride dead before the wedding, guilt and faith confused, the music a back porch funereal.
Midway twixt the light and dark there’s an excellent country ramble on Count The Roses which delves into George Jones territory with some style while the title song recalls the Everly Brothers with its harmonies. Like Pokey Lafarge, Meade has the ability to write songs that seem to have been around forever and here he’s forged a set of songs that cover a panoply of half a century of rockabilly and country music. The album’s a whirligig of rabble rousing honky tonk and forlorn laments all delivered with some panache.
Let Me Off At The Bottom is released on May 27th on At The Helm Records. There’s an album launch in Glasgow at The Rum Shack on the Southside on the 28th May.