Miraculous Mule – Old Bones, New Fire (Lightning Archive/Juke Joint 500) – I guess the easiest thing for Miraculous Mule to do, almost the obvious thing surely? Would have been for the three of them to just get in a studio and bang out another garage album, the previous releases have all been rather well received by those in the know, raved and drooled over by some of us and rightly so, surely all they needed was to get in the studio, fire it up and there it would be, the magic, the chemistry, the soul, easy, the Mule could do it in their sleep. But this is why they’re so damn good and this is why this album review is so damn difficult to write, this will be the eighth or ninth time I’ve tried to start it now. You see, I really don’t want to have to think about it that much, I don’t want analysis it, stack it up, pull it down, explain any of it, I just want to play it like I have been doing pretty much non-stop for the last two or three weeks now.
Old bones, new fire indeed, How I feel about the Mule and pretty much everything Michael J Sheehy does is no big secret, it has been said more than a few times on these fractured pages. Hang on, lets back this up, who’s she? What are they doing? The first track to appear on social media O Death features the beautifully dark voice of Alex Louise Petty, she’s backed by the spiritual warmth of Sheehy and the third “lead singer” brother Patrick McCarthy – no doubt she has a voice to die for, she’s got the Mule nailed, but hey, this isn’t what we want, this isn’t right. It was a bold first offering from this, the fourth album. Their version of O Death is a fine piece of music but this isn’t Miraculous Mule surely? This isn’t right, but oh no, she is so so right and once you get your ears around the whole thing, the ten tracks that make up this proper old school album, with O Death there in the middle of it, in the middle of this proper body of work. The interaction, the warmth the harmonies, the backing of each other, the three voices (and the whispered drums of Ian Burns) make perfect perfect (perfect) sense. The three of them could have just made another album, we’d have no doubt loved it, it would have been easy, it would have been obvious but then Michael J and whoever he’s working with has never been obvious and there simple wont be anything more beautifully affirming than this honey-drenched version of Butcher Boy. Alex is an excellent addition (I do believe she was part of the very first line up some ten years ago)
Once the four of them let go and rock out with the country twang of Nobody/Nothing you know they’ve done it again. You see, the chemistry here is just so rich, and that’s the thing, this surely can’t be an album by a little band from London, a band no one much takes any notice of, surely this is some big big deal release from some highly respected band from Memphis or Nashville? The energy here is just magical and yeah, I know, here I go again, another ridiculous Miraculous Mule review and yes this is why it is so hard to write about this one and blood is running warm in veins and oh hell, this album is so so damn good and the fact is that anything I really say is going to sound preposterous red-bat chasing nonsense.
Oh what the hell, Tthis is O.C Smith Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp good, and nothing is as good as that original ’68 recording of Hickory Holler’s Tramp – this new Mule album is that good, this is mama’s chicken dumpling good, and yeah I can’t be saying things like that, and let them gossip all they want and that’s surely where this album is coming from? This is a passionate album, a soulful album, a raw album – raw in the best sense, the production here is spot on, the sound just right, we’re not talking that kind of raw, this is no lo-fi mess, this is warm, ,this is dripping in well produced silky soul.
Last time around they made a blistering garage rock album, an angry politically astute album, the kind of album only a wired-in slightly pissed-off soul-drenched three piece garage band could have made and yes, they could have just done that again and we’d no doubt have love it again, but that’s not what the Mule do. They are now four and this time they’ve gone back to those old songs, they’ve mined their own souls, explored those old blues songs, gospel songs, spiritual songs, old folk songs, the songs you night have heard if you grew up in a musical family, in an Irish catholic family, where Elvis songs or Charlie Pride songs were played on a Sunday, the songs that eventually led you to dig deeper.
This is stripped back and full of passion, full of that gospel music you heard back there, that hillbilly music, that need to dig through it all, that pure love – nearly everything here, aside from one Sheeny original, is a cover or an arrangement or a loving treatment of an old blue or gospel or folk song from way back, this album is once again drenched in soul, it is once again very much the proper righteous real real deal.
I really shouldn’t tell you this but she asked me in the pub the other day if I had heard it yet and what did I really think of it? I can’t possibly repeat here what I said after one or two too many pints of afternoon Guinness, that the bastards had gone and done it again, that they’d made what was probably the best Elvis album in years and years. I can’t possibly repeat that here, that would be a stupidly ridiculous thing to say in a review. And oh how O Death makes such sense now in the middle of the album with Alex leading it and Sinnerman sounds like Richie Havens and those backing vocals are just right and well I can’t say any of this and expect you to take anything I say seriously.
So much ambition here, so much belief, so much righteous goodness, and yes, they do sound like a band from North London, like the Stones still sounded like a band from West London when they did all Southern American blues songs and yes, you won’t hear many things better than this in 2022, and when it comes to those end year lists it should be right at the top of everone’s and yet again it probably won’t be and I think I need to shut up now. This is a damn good album, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to write about it, if I told you what I really think you’ll think I’ve lost the plot, you probably though that long ago anyway, albums like this is why we still do this damn time-eating Organ thing.. This is special, I love this album, (sw)