Andrea & Mud “Institutionalized”

Guest Wifi Records, 2024

Troubled minds provide inspiration for the gifted Atlanta surf country duo.

artwork for Andrea & Mud album "Institutionalized"Take a converted barn in rural Georgia, two accomplished musicians in enforced confinement and what do you get? Happily, in this case, a very fine record, taking its inspiration from the pressures that Andrea Colburn and Kyle ‘Mud’ Moseley’s relationship experienced during those months.

Emerging with a harvest of introspective, intelligent songs, the result is the pair’s third release. Writing nine of the thirteen songs, and with four others that perfectly fit the overall theme, Andrea & Mud’s ‘Institutionalized’ explores mental health issues with honesty and humour.

Coming together in Atlanta around 2017, the pair combined their considerable talents to create a unique form they term ‘surf western’. There’s an infectious retro-feel to the music, melding spaghetti westerns and honky-tonk into a film-noir soundtrack. Rich in visual imagery and with strong character definition, it’s no surprise that their songs have attracted filmmakers, with ‘Birmingham, Alabama 8.30am’ from their previous album featured in the Sean Baker movie ‘Red Rocket’.

The opening title-track is a metaphor for what follows. Taking their cue from songs like Porter Wagoner’s ‘The Rubber Room’ – here referenced complete with Wagoner’s reverb effects – there’s humour and wordplay in the lyrics as Moseley sings

“I’m committed to loving you
I may have lost my marbles, my screws are loose
The pain inside I can no longer hide from the things you’ve done to me
I’m institutionalized, won’t you set me free?”

Re-uniting with Damon Moon, producer of 2020’s ‘Bad News, Darlin’, Colburn and Moseley take turns on vocals, sometimes harmonising as in ‘A World Just You and Me’ and occasionally duetting, as in their cover of Leon Payne’s murder ballad ‘Psycho’, a perfect fit for Moseley’s menacing baritone. Their voices as distinctive as Carter and Cash, they convincingly inhabit their characters – there’s even a snatch of telephone conversation in ‘Bankman’, Andrea playing the role of a would-be borrower wishing to speak with the manager. You sense personal experience here and in the bluegrass ‘Trouble’s Gone’, with its one room mountain shack that the occupant seems content with. With Andrea & Mud marooned in their barn, the irony is delicious, not least the comparison with a mausoleum –

“I got doors, I got windows, I got floors
Got a fancy television in my Taj Mahal”

Mental health has of course been explored by others. Besides ‘Psycho’, there’s a cover of Johnny Cash’s ‘Committed to Parkview’, a song based on Porter Wagoner’s experience of the Nashville psychiatric facility and the well-known ‘Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In)’ on the dangers of hallucinogenic drugs. There’s also mother and daughter duo The Judds’ ‘Mama, He’s Crazy’ though that is more in keeping with the sense of Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’.

Moseley’s sobriquet comes from his fondness for working with clay – the couple now have a house with a kiln – but his guitar sound is far from being muddy. From his chosen Telecaster or Danelectro he creates sublime tones reminiscent of The Ventures, the innovative early-60’s originators of the surf guitar (and still going strong). Often using a baritone instrument for the low-down notes so typical of the genre, he blends country licks and bends with reverb-rich twang, combining beautifully with Smoking Brett Resnick on pedal steel. The instrumental on ‘This Time’ is gorgeous, alongside heartbreaking vocals from Colburn.

“Choose the bottle or me, you only get one this time
You’ve cashed in your sorry’s and I’ve seen you walk the line
You chose the bottle not me, please don’t do that this time”

A large cast of instrumental players and backup singers complete the lavish sound, heard to best effect on ‘Welcome to Blue Skies’. With ‘Institutionalized’ Andrea & Mud have come up with a highly original album that demands to be played on repeat.

9/10
9/10

About Chas Lacey 18 Articles
My musical journey has taken me from Big Pink to southern California. Life in the fast lane now has a sensible 20mph limit which leaves more time for listening to new music and catching live shows.
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