All Important Background:
Magnolia Bayou are a band from and I quote from the press blurb, “the heart of a Mississippi swamp” who only formed 3 years ago. They also said that the band are influenced by “the golden age of rock and roll“. This four-piece are indeed inspired by that along with southern, blues, gospel, and a touch of grunge. About half the songs on the album could easily fill a dance floor at a rock/metal disco being so full of groove and funk. You can hear all the influences, but there is an authenticity about it, as well as an enthusiasm which captivates. The 4 members are Dylan Palmier (lead guitar and I believe founder), Andrew Fulton (vocalist and rhythm guitar), Josh Estes (bass) and seemingly the new guy Cedric Feazell (drummer and percussion). There are also some guest musicians on the album providing both keys and harmonica along with what sounds like a small choir at one point but I don’t have their names. Suffice to say all do a sterling job enhancing the album wherever they appear.
A Look At The Songs:
From track one, “Dig Deep“, you can hear that funk and groove (for some reason in the gaps of the grooves I have a desire to sing “woo-oh” in a high pitched voice) along with gospel-style lyrics which are not actually religious, but rather telling the person it is being sung to that if they want rid of him that “you’d better dig deep if you want to bury me, you better dig deep, and then you better have a key“. I do love Andrew‘s inflections in this, the way he emphasizes the vowels with that southern drawl giving it extra clarity. He admits this animosity is his own fault but still he isn’t going down easy. A great intro song, one that gets the foot tapping and the head nodding whilst sitting down, lord alone knows what would happen standing up having had a few beers and this blasting live (or in a club). The body will move for sure.
They keep up that groove and the message about being a bad cheating kind of guy in the second song called “Sleepin’ In The Doghouse” whilst the dog of course (as we learn in the lyrics) is now actually sleeping in the marital bed! His begging to come back into the house to even just get his personal belongings out is holding no truck with the lady of the house. Lyrically a warning about getting drunk and coming home smelling of another lady’s perfume that isn’t your partners. Musically the little flourishes, the stop/starts between keyboard moments are tasty and the guitar solo hits the sweet spot. Another funky soulful upbeat number to groove along to. “Sugarspell” is a bit heavier and near the end you can hear the Led Zep influences especially on some of the vocal dynamics. It is slightly slower and has an edge of warning about it seemingly about a woman who likes to use her physicality to entrance males just so she can get what she wants before moving on to the next sucker.
“Preachin’ Blues” is the cover of an old Son House track which has been recently covered by a few folks including Larkin Poe and Living Color but yet manages to stand on its own (more full band including drums compared to the first and not as intense or threatening as the latter here). It has its own vibe, funky with some lovely slide going on and the addition of honky-tonk piano which I haven’t heard anyone add whilst covering this old blues song which I thought was a great touch.
“From The Other Side” surprised me with a strong hint of Alice In Chains especially in the vocal. There is a fragility in the voice whilst still of course being strong. It has that soft plaintiff feel full of emotion. The music is very tasteful with the drums at the start especially having such a precision of touch. Cedric does a great job on this. Speaking of Seattle bands there is a smidgeon of another famous band from there in the next track “The Robber” as well, this time Heart due to the fast riff with the sharp breaks reminding me a little of the mighty “Barracuda“. This has some fine harmonica work going on complementing the piece beautifully. Lyrically it tells the story of coming home and finding the door broken and hearing noises in the house. The singer (as first person) gets his gun which he seems not to have used before due to how he describes the nerves, but yet he shoots the guy to see the “cold dead eyes” staring back at him. The reasoning for actually shooting the intruder is he doesn’t have time to play games, he works hard for what he has so he has a right to shoot him. Of course, this all seems a bit over the top as someone who isn’t American and has no desire to ever have a gun! Great song though.
“Tupelo” has an acoustic guitar opening with gentle slides on the electric with gaps between with a little hi-hat keeping the rhythm. The chorus is belting. It is infectious yet laid back southern Americana. The feel is spot on with slight touches of keys giving a little extra when needed. “Sweet Magnolia” is a gentle country track adorned with brushes of keys, harmonica and even a choir. It sounds so simple yet has lots of textures. Last track on the album “Thieves” returns the album back to a more upbeat funky rock vibe and Josh‘s bass is quite upfront ala Andy Fraser from Free. The chorus is highlighted and more prominent due to the quieter funkier verses.
My favourite track is “Hurricane” which also tells a story based around a character down on his luck bearing witness to the horror of Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans not so long ago. The guy has seen hurricanes before but can tell from the sky and the general vibe that this is going to be a bad one. There is mention of previous events and the indifference of someone in power who visited, said the new wall would protect and left again. Of course, it wasn’t true. The results were more devastating than ever this time. However, there is that feeling that New Orleans would survive due to the strength and mentality of the people. After all It “takes a lot of water to wash away New Orleans” (which works on 2 levels lyrically). Musically it starts with guitar through a wah-wah pedal (at least sounds like it) and nearer the end has a stomping and clapping section with a single voice between each stomp/clap. This song screams “atmosphere” all the way through. There is an honesty in the words, music and delivery that makes the song a stand out for me and I think it shows a band that although young have depth and quality already. A hauntingly fabulous song.
To round things up this is a quality album that can rock when it wants to and yet show plenty of sensitivity when it needs to. Anyone who loves bands such as The Black Crowes, Led Zeppelin, Free, King King etc will find much to enjoy as will anyone who likes blues, hard rock, soul and southern rock. This is only their second album but they sound like ancient veterans thanks to the quality of writing and performance. As I said before you can hear the influences, what they are doing is old music but with revitalized youthful enthusiasm which sounds terrific and fresh. They have the potential to go far on this showing and if they replicate this stuff as well playing it live then I imagine the gigs should be something to behold. Magnolia Bayou are without a doubt a band to watch out for.