The first adjective that comes to mind when listening to The Most Ugly Child’s debut LP is simply “big”. The group is nominally a six-piece but with guest appearances that include a whole freaking brass band, they can make much more noise than their promo shots would suggest. And quite enjoyable noise it is too. Firstly, you have the songwriting, singing style, and nostalgic pedal steel tones that evoke the classic country of Buck Owens and George Jones. Adding to the controlled chaos is the earthy acoustic grit of dobro, banjo, and smashing fiddle breaks. Of course, one singer would not be enough for a band so clearly bent on laying more tracks, so leads and harmonies are traded by Daniel Wright and Stevie-Leigh Goodison.
The chief songwriters of the outfit, they sing of whisky, motels, honky-tonks, and heartbreak, with good sense of both melancholy and comedy. The way they land the lyrics can feel over-acted in a show-tune kind of way but most of the time they match the songs’ convention and Goodison has some genuinely Partonesque moments.
The rhythm section of Max Johnson and Matt Cutler can’t go unmentioned. Johnson is unapologetic about an occasional funky or latin groove in his bass playing and Cutler enjoys bashing the toms and the cymbals just like the next rock drummer. Check out the super-charged version of Townes Van Zandt’s Lungs – one of the album’s highlights – to get a good idea.
With all this going on, “Copper and Lace” is one hell of a ride, with just the right pacing to let you catch your breath in between the full-on moments. Keep your eyes peeled for a live show.