Wrinkle Neck Mules: I Never Thought It Would Go This Far
Wrinkle Neck Mules take their Southern pedigree seriously, mining a rural sound that's chock full of back porch sensibilities.
Richmond, Virginia's Wrinkle Neck Mules take their Southern pedigree seriously, mining a rural sound that's chock full of back porch sensibilities. Dual banjos, pedal steel and mandolin find them flirting with bluegrass and a contemporary country palette, but the group's inherent authenticity manages to veer it away from more commercial terrain. Then again, after five full-length albums and an EP, Wrinkle Neck Mules can boast a stable MO that doesn't require any compromise in style.
The songwriting comes courtesy of Andy Stepanian and Chase Heard, two entrepreneurs who split their time between their musical pursuits and a clothing company they founded that's known as Howler Brothers. Ironically, it's that day job, and the fact that some of the members live in Virginia and others reside in Texas that puts a damper on the band's ability to tour more extensively. Still, the release of the Mules' latest effort, the ironically titled I Never Thought It Would Go This Far, may make the need to work the road all the more imperative. This is an album full of populist appeal, a sturdy set of songs with a decided good old boy attitude and an approach that's likely to win favor with the folks residing in the heartland. The rustic ambiance and down home delivery is rooted in authentic Americana, and yet it's compelling enough to offer a connection with urban dwellers as well. Given the challenges and tribulations modern life has to offer these days, the resolute determination and tangled emotions embodied in these songs provide relatable themes that should be helpful in garnering immediate appeal.
It's often been said that roots music is a kind of Southern soul music of sorts, and here again Wrinkle Neck Mules wears its feelings on its collective sleeve. Whether it's the redneck ramble of "Days Don't End" and "Heaven' High", or the weary resignation that accompanies "Tropical Depression" and "Token", these rugged road songs are generally sung from an everyman perspective. The resilient "Undertaker's Song" and equally determined "Heaven's High" reflect the fact that for all the hardships that impact life’s highways and byways, it's the strong that ultimately survive. Or, as the lyric to "Whistlers & Sparklers" implores, "Lace your gloves up and get your ass back in the fight."
Those looking for inspiration ought to take heart in Wrinkle Neck Mules' irrepressible anthems and square-jawed tenacity. After all, I Never Thought It Would Go This Far is a thoroughly riveting, robust example of stoic resolve cast in blue collar conceits. Whether or not this new album raises the group's recognition factor remains to be seen, but it makes an emphatic impression regardless. This is a sound that's real, reliable and thoroughly revved up. Or to put more succinctly, it's already earned the distinction of emerging as one of the better roots rock outings we're likely to hear in this still young year.