Mules & Men “Thinking Sideways” (Independent, 2019)

There’s no disputing the talent, energy and togetherness that this unique band bring to the table. You can argue over the genre – they call it ‘Acid Celtgrass’. What that means is open to interpretation, pigeonholing was never an AUK preference. What matters is that Luke Coffey and his gang of Irish reprobates sting the listener with razor- edged hoedowns not heard from the Emerald Isle since The Pogues last raised hell .

But that’s not the whole story. Yes, it’s exciting and hooks the listener early on. First track ‘Procrastination Blues’ really does make you want to “Have another one” with its banjo breakneck  and febrile devil duels. And follow on number ‘Write Me A Letter’ is a thing of beauty, guitarist and female vocal member Lily Sheehan melts the heart when she picks the acoustic while her voice would make a doubting priest regain faith. So why the reluctance to fully embrace ‘Thinking Sideways‘? There are some first class songs to be found on this album, but not enough unfortunately. It is found wanting in ways that point to a great future rather than a poor present. Tracks like ‘Red Lemonade’ and ‘Donegal’ underline their inexperience yet also signal their potential. Not quite enough substance to justify the whole. Production is the other big let down but this is a debut album and self -produced. Let’s not be too harsh. There is genuine raw bluegrass with a topping of sweet harmony and a punk twist to be found on ‘Thinking Sideways‘. A potent formula.

When a relatively new band like Mules And Men can write and record great blues tracks like ‘Mama Don’t You Love Me Anymore’ and they come from these islands then we should all be proud. When they hit top gear they combine the best of Steve Earle, Old Crow Medicine Show and Devil Makes Three and that can’t be bad. Let’s have another one.

The green grass of Ireland turns acid blue

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