In the spirit of complete honesty, I had no idea who The Muddy Crows were before writing this review. However, I can safely say that after listening to their most recent EP Straight Crazy, I’ve become a huge fan – they’re easily one of the bands I’m excited about the most in the coming years. The Muddy Crows are a mix of several different musical influences, ranging from acts like The Lumineers, Eric Hustchinson and John Mayer – all the while, they have the storytelling and lyrical sensibilities of classic artists like James Taylor or Jim Croce; a sort of Americana meets pop-rock. Straight Crazy may not be a brand new batch of songs, but it is a collection of 4 of their strongest, which makes it a perfect place for newcomers and longtime fans alike to dive [back] into the world of The Muddy Crows.
Straight Crazy starts off with its title track – easily one of the most infectious and accessible songs I’ve heard in recent years. A song that could have been written by Jason Mraz in his prime, Straight Crazy has a singer-songwriter/reggae vibe that’s as endearing as it is lyrically thought provoking. A subtly dark story about a toxic relationship with a girl who seems to be a little too “crazy” about this man, Straight Crazy tells this somber tale in such a fun way, that it’s quite easy to miss these lyrics altogether. The Muddy Crows have done a fantastic job on infusing rather lighthearted music with fairly deep subject matter, and a huge part of that is lead singer/guitar player Dan Wolff’s vocal. Wolff has a uniquely captivating voice that’s at the forefront of everything The Muddy Crows do, and Straight Crazy (both the song and the EP) wastes no time in hiding that fact; making this project all the better.
Quarter Past 4 is a much darker song, both in terms of subject matter and music. This is as Americana-rock as The Muddy Crows get – it’s gritty, dirty, and has this certain outlaw feeling to it; though it never feels too foreboding or off-putting enough to lose its wide appeal. Very much akin to a Raconteurs Counselor of the Lonely sound, this track entirely transports the listener to the old west and engulfs them in a tale of revenge. Despite this narrative being a slight cliché, like many great tales that have come before it, Quarter Past 4 isn’t necessarily about its story, but rather – how that story is told. The Muddy Crows’ ability to tell a great story is unrivaled. They tell this tale with a certain swaggering machismo that completely embodies everything the wild west was, but also, much like how the outlaw era ended, Quarter Past 4 ends in a rather ambiguous, unresolved manner.
The next track, Jezebel, feels like it would be right at home in the mid 2000’s on a Gavin DeGraw album. It’s got a bit of a twang to it, but at its core is purely a well crafted pop-rock song about a girl and a broken heart. Jezebel is musically the heaviest rocking song on the album – with guitar licks and growling vocals throughout. Unlike the previous tracks that used the music as a catalyst to tell an engaging story, Jezebel feels more like an in your face rock song, and although that may sound like a bad thing – given the subject matter, nothing else would fit better.
Finally, the longest track from the EP, Anywhere but Here feels like if a Michael Bublé song had a relationship with a hit from a musical. It’s uplifting, makes you feel good and is just a whole lot of fun. The Muddy Crows trade in their guitars for a bright piano that lays the foundation for Wolff’s swooning voice to take control, serenading the listener with a tale of a hopeless romantic needing to get away from it all. The track and the EP end with a huge chorus of voices singing the tagline on repeat. These gang vocals help cement a lighthearted breath of comradery that makes the band as people feel just as approachable as their music – and makes the listener want to be a part of The Muddy Crows world even more.
Straight Crazy is a phenomenal collection of 4 of the very best songs from a band that is masterful at their craft. The Muddy Crows’ music and melodies have this almost effortless ability to appeal to fans of just about any genre – without pandering or sounding inauthentic. Not many other artists can claim that, and this is one of the things that make The Muddy Crows such a special band; and one you definitely want to keep an eye out for in the future.