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The Flaming Mudcats - Gave You What You Wanted

Ode Records

13 tracks

The mudcat or flathead is a larger species of catfish, a staple of the brown waters of the Mississippi and fresh waters in the Southlands. Not to be confused, the Flaming Mudcat is a blues band member from New Zealand. Did I say New Zealand? I said New Zealand!

This quartet of musicians hail from Auckland and play a distinctly authentic brand of straight up blues. The CD takes its’ name from an Ike Turner song (which, incidentally, is not covered). The band is led by Craig Braken, who sings and plays harp. Doug Bygrave is on guitar, Sean McCarthy is on bass and drums are provided by Ian Thompson. These four guys have played together since 2009, but they sound like a well seasoned band with tons of experience.

These are all new songs except one, and 9 were written by the band. The lone cover is “Twenty Dollar Gig” by Mickey Bones. The songs are strong and good top to bottom. Traditional yet fresh sounding stuff. From “Big City Mama” at the start to the ending cover, this is one helluva tight and exciting band.

The CD starts out with Bygraves’ strident guitar and then Bracken blazing his harp and singing in his powerful baritone, sort of like Junior Brown rockabilly goes to Chicago. Powerful, clean, driving stuff. The lyrics are catchy, too. “Champagne, Diamonds and a Fast Car”, just what anybody’s baby needs, right? A great little shuffle. Their namesake song, “Mudcat Boogie” is a cool little boogie with call and response and a smooth guitar line. “Double D’s” is a great instrumental where we first hear Murray Patton on the Hammond organ and more stinging guitar work; “Cool It Down” is another nice, slow instrumental with the harp singing a sad and lonely solo throughout. Simon Aanerud is on piano and keys on seven tracks; his work adds a nice sound and backdrop and his solos are crisp. “New Technology Blues” hearkens back to a Muddy Waters-like Hootchie Kootchie Man beat where Craig bemoans how our expectations are so big given our new technology. All the cuts here are excellent, top to bottom.

The blues are alive in the South Pacific thanks to bands like these. If they make to our shores or if you make it out there, these guys are the real deal and you should check them out. In the mean time, you’ll have to “suffer” through listening to them on this outstanding inaugural CD! It’s blazing hot stuff and well worth the listen!

Reviewer Steve Jones is secretary of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and work with their Blues In The Schools program.

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