Miraculous Mule. Old Bones, New Fire.

A London based band who describe themselves as “a group of Anglo-Irish honkies who dig African-American Gospel, prison/work songs and Hillbilly music,” Miraculous Mule are a new name to us here at Blabber’n’Smoke. Intrigued by their blurb, we plugged the disc in and, short story, quite loved this album. The band take a clutch of old blues and gospel numbers and deliver them with some aplomb with a sound which recalls the likes of Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell and Stoneground along with more than a whiff of Dylan & The Band’s Basement Tapes in their loose limbed approach.

They open with a chain gang lament on I Know I’ve Been Changed, the singers channelling that feted soulful frenzy which characterised preachers such as Elder Utah Smith, famed for his 1940s recording, Two Wings. Nobody /Nothing is much zippier with frantic banjo and fuzz fuelled guitar while City Of Refuge settles into a soulful groove reminiscent of The Staple Singers.

Familiar songs such as John The Revelator and O Death are given new legs in the arrangements here with the former being quite seductive in its shimmering amalgamation of Pops Staples’ guitar lines and Dr. John like voodoo vibes. Butcher Boy is a brief foray into Child Ballad territory which they carry off quite successfully and You Got To Take Sick And Die wanders into early Greenwich Village Fred Neil territory. Amidst the covers, band leader Michael J. Sheehy offers one original song, We Get What We Deserve which captures the essence of the album – a loose limbed ramble of a song with gospel harmonies and meandering electric guitar which sounds like a companion song to The Stones’ You Can’t Always Get You Want. Closing song, Sinner Man is so closely tied to Nina Simone that the band don’t really deviate from her many versions of the song but just dig down and play it. However, you can’t deny there’s an irresistible temptation to picture the band playing this in the mid 60s on a bill along with Jefferson Airplane and Richie Havens. It’s part of the success of this album that the band simultaneously update these songs and transport you back to more optimistic times. Well recommended.


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