Missoula’s MudSlide Charley has a fourth album out featuring what they call their “genuine Missoula-born, ramshackle soul.” Long-time members are Marco Littig, slide/lead guitar; Phil Hamilton, harmonica, sax, guitar and percussion; Roger Moquin, drums; and Tahj Kjelland, bass.
Lee Rizzo, who joined when Emi Kodama left in 2015 to become a mother, sings lead vocals and plays rhythm guitar and washboard. Littig, Kjelland and Moquin sing back-up vocals, and Littig joins Rizzo and Hamilton as MudSlide Charley’s songwriters. But the whole band collaborated on the material.
Rizzo brings a backwoods country-blues nuance that enhances the band’s sizzle and swagger. Whereas Littig and Kodama took turns singing lead on past albums, the group defers to Rizzo’s accomplished pipes here. Littig says having a single voice to chronicle the material links the band’s musical styles together.
“Southern Don’t Cross the Dog” sets the scene with slow rollin’ harmonica. Enter the silky slide, before Rizzo’s emotional mid-range vocals kick in. Her voice is somewhere between a soprano and an alto, with a large helping of grit. She growls and bends notes while slick percussion rounds out the tune.
“Liquid Velvet” is a great dancer. Rizzo admonishes her man for wanting to leave. The fellas add “Who’s gonna be your baby now?” before some nasty harmonica takes off. Bass and drums percolate underneath.
“Love Machine” has a great syncopated arrangement. It starts with a soft stutter-step intro, then Rizzo sings, “I’ll be your teen-age homecoming queen, love machine.” It almost sounds like she’s smiling as she vocalizes. The syncopated riffs between verses wrap it up tight. I like it!
– Mariss McTucker