Dangermuffin, a three piece band from Folly Beach, South Carolina, offers an exquisite blend of Americana, bluegrass, and folk with the release of "Moonscapes." Such a description, however, doesn't offer the full picture, and surely doesn't do justice to the powerful tracks contained on this release. Featuring the talents of Dan Lotti (vocals, godin, acoustic guitar and ukulele), Mike Sivilli (electric / acoustic / slide guitar, banjo and vocals) and Steven Sandifer (drums, upright bass, various percussion, washboard and vocals), Dangermuffin offers a robust sound and emotionally resonant songwriting.
The album begins with the buoyant, inspiring "Moonscapes." The track features likable energy, cascading guitar and excellent harmony. The homespun "Mystery Repeating" is accentuated by banjo, slide guitar, and warm vocals and sets the stage for "Gutter Dance," another soulful track that inspires one to sing along. The latter measures of the track feature yearning guitar and a sense of muscularity. "Big Suit" has inspired chill bumps on several occasions. With harmonies and vocals that yearn and ache, soulful guitar that resonates deeply, this track alone makes the album worth the purchase. Listen to these lyrics a few times, and you'll be singing along yourself, reckless and inspired. The album changes gears quickly, jumping into the moonshine soaked, bluegrass stomp of "Walk Into the Wind." This sort of mood swing and change in tempo personifies the album in general. After a track of pensive reflection and chill bumps, the next track inspires a spirited jig and foot stomps.
This mood-shifting, "doppelganger" quality is also apparent with "Fuego," as the trio ventures from a joyful bluegrass romp back into soulful waters. This track is another "goosebump inducer" for me. On several recent occasions over the last week, I have found myself driving down the road with the windows rolled down, belting the lyrics of this song to the wind. Playful guitar flourishes enhance the mood, then set the stage for a confident solo, graceful yet full of machismo and swagger. "Ancient Wind," with its stripped down banjo and minimalist approach, evokes the soulfulness and spirit of the Avett Brothers at their best. After such subdued soulfulness and yearning, "Stricken" lopes forward confidently and with a sense of fun and exhilaration. "Jezebel" spotlights crystalline guitar, yearning songwriting, and a subdued, almost melancholy feel. The album closes with the cinematic, lengthy "Coffin Island." The track begins in stripped down fashion, as guitar and vocals mesh in a lonely, haunting ballad. The track features Shannon Whitworth as guest vocalist, and her voice adds a lovely quality to the track. The last measures of the track fade away into silence before a bonus instrumental jam surfaces. The mystery track blends "atmospheric" Radiohead (think instrumental tracks from "Kid A" or "Amnesiac") with the crunch of Crazy Horse and the swagger of Carlos Santana's guitar. I realize such comparisons create large shoes to fill, and would be an unfair comparison for most to live up to, but Dangermuffin does it, and does it well.
The 12 tracks of "Moonscapes" have proven to be a wonderful discovery for me. As I near the latter half of 2010, and I think on all the great albums I have heard this year, Dangermuffin's unassuming, but oh-so-thrilling "Moonscapes," has notched itself high on my list of important albums for the year. If you appreciate soulful, stirring numbers, infused with the spirit of fun and late night romps, this album will definitely register with you. I am officially obsessed with this trio from South Carolina and look forward to seeing them in concert. I will be upfront and center, acting the fool, and singing to the rafters. I hope to see you there.
- J Evan Wade