In his casual, swaggering drawl, The Muddy Crows’ Dan Wolff sings; “Girl, I’m hearing all the things you say to me / The words are hanging heavy like food on a Wrapping Tree / I could reach up and take them, but there is something in your eyes / I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like surprises,” and listeners are instantly invited into the ethereal realm of folk-rock encapsulated in the band’s new single “Straight Crazy.” The title track from their latest EP, “Straight Crazy” doesn’t waste any time easing us into its infectious grooves and sultry melodies; instead, The Muddy Crows lay right into a patterned bucolic swing that is almost guaranteed to leave you begging for more when all is said and done. The rhythm is muscular here, the instruments subtle but evocative, and the mood is anything but uninspired.
Wolff’s serenade is coupled with a textured, rigid percussion as we enter the first chorus, which immediately lifts the track from a pendulous strut into a full-blown march. Without any warning, the band takes on a singular shape, cutting through the oceanic bassline with a literate melody that is both endearing and startlingly physical. The vocals are always at center stage, but they don’t steal any of the spotlight away from the string harmonies that are driving the song along, seasoning every verse with a natural vibrato that reverberates well into the next stanza. Like the other tracks that are featured in the eponymous EP, “Straight Crazy” features a boisterous, churning master mix that grips us from the get-go and doesn’t let us wander from exactly where the band wants us to be – right in the eye of the sonic storm.
From a production standpoint, this is the most radio-friendly look that The Muddy Crows have adopted in their time as a unit, but I don’t think that it symbolizes a secret desire to escape the insularity of the east coast underground. For a band like this, and moreover, a singer/songwriter like Dan Wolff, there’s nothing more important than constructing vivid, poignant songcraft that doesn’t relate itself to any particular scene, movement or trend in popular culture. Through this unique hybrid of traditional folk music and iridescent, 21stcentury pop, they not only stylize themselves more profoundly than any of their experimental rivals have, but they straight-up assert themselves as one of the most inventive folk groups currently recording on this side of the Atlantic.
As “Straight Crazy” comes winding to a conclusion in a colorfully cathartic fade that brings all of the wild instrumentation to a grinding halt, the sparkling tonality of the strings and tuneful timbre of Wolff’s voice tend to echo in our minds, beckoning us to play the track all over again and absorb its deeper narrative. Whether you’re dedicated to new folk acts or are just an occasional listener of acoustic music, this latest song from The Muddy Crows is one that you won’t want to miss out on right now. It’s a glimpse into the awesomely provocative skillset that this Washington-based crew bring to the table, and more importantly, it’s a refreshing slice of unvarnished pop wonderment that was previously absent among new music out this year.