Miraculous Mule bring redemption through the power of music. Say hallelujah!
Release Date: 6th August 2022
Label: Juke Joint 500
Format: digital / CD / LP
Back in 2017, Miraculous Mule offered a gateway album with the electric might of Two Tonne Testimony. An awesome blast of dirty rock and roll with nods to all sorts of musical relations that blew away cobwebs and created a thirst for more. MM aren’t AC/DC though and expecting more of the same, however welcome it would be, isn’t part of the deal.
Main man Michael J Sheehy has been active enough in the interim with Distance Is The Soul Of Beauty and The Crooked Carty Sings, the latter a superb set of murder ballads and traveller tunes; songs with some history, beautifully realised. Also an indication of where his muse currently lies and the direction in which MM is headed.
The latter record is perhaps the most indicative of the direction of Old Bones, New Fire. Gone is the raw and unfiltered amp-fizzing garage rock of Two Tonne Testimony and across ten tracks we take a trip into the preserve of the band’s rustic roots. Ian Burns on drums, Patrick McCarthy on bass and banjo and Alex Petty on vocals join him on a combination of tracks recorded back in 2011 and during the more recent pandemic; the join is pretty seamless. If we didn’t tell you, you’d be none the wiser.
Humbly flowing in the footsteps of Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta, Blind Wilie Johnson and Elvis (“We are not worthy to tie their shoelaces”) the quartet pays their own tribute in doing justice to the power of music. The spiritual arrangement on I Know I’ve Been Changed sets the tone as early blues, gospel and folk are all given the due respect they deserve in some authentic arrangements. It’s the first of a couple of tracks revisited from the Blues Uzi album but with distinctly different frames. Two of those tracks City Of Refuge and Nobody/Nothing (the latter formerly a heavy stoner blues on Blues Uzi) pack in a whole heap of soul and could easily fit straight into The Commitments soundtrack
I get a hint of Zep’s Ramble On from the friendly acoustic strum of We Get What We Deserve, leaves falling all around and all that but without the explosive chorus. Instead, there’s a cool grooving on the title of the only Sheehy original in a set of traditional songs. It fits perfectly a little more polished maybe but again, if we didn’t tell you you may be none the wiser. Like if we told you it was Alex Petty who puts in a startling performance on O Death rather than one of those inspirational deep soul heroes of yore. It’s an arrangement that allows total focus on the delivery that drips with Appalachian folkiness and spirituality as she makes her emotional plea to the grim reaper.
Moving into dense gospel blues with the guys matching Alex on John The Revelator – seven seals, apocalyptic events and biblical references abound – and while Butcher Boy takes on a folkier jib with the banjo holding court in the distance, the good book doesn;t dip under the radar for too long. Oh Lord, there it goes again on the deceptively simple You Got To Take Sick And Die, where the ‘less is more’ stretches the lyric and Sinnerman (thanks Nina…). The latter a fitting tribute to the great one and bring the curtain down.
Old Bones, New Fire – it should be subtitled ‘the old ones are the best’ – is a terrific set. Miraculaous Mule as modern day prophets with fire in their bones and bellies. I’m trying to resist crying Praise be! While being rich and wonderful in itself, it could well play the part of being the gateway album to a whole library that’s sitting awaiting discovery. Old Bones, New Fire could see the floodgates starting to creak open.
Here’s O Death from the album: