Some bands manage to capture an essence, a feel that permeates through the music and ‘Born In Mud’ comes some way to achieving that magic. The collision of Southern Stoner Rock influences of bands like Down and Corrosion of Conformity run rampant through the tales of Voodoo, Swamps and Cowboys, as they rub shoulders with a touch of Doom, a metallic edge and even a nod to Ennio Morricone with instrumental track Dusty Road. Somewhere there is a Robert Rodriguez film missing a soundtrack.
Of the eleven tracks that make up the album most are hard edged heavy doom that get you nodding your head like a novelty dog on the parcel shelf of a car, driven by towering riffs and muscular rhythms that sound like a paean to the hot desert, the foggy murky swamps and… Hang on… there is no desert in New Orleans…
This slight geographical inaccuracy problem comes because this incredibly infectious album is actually the brainchild of Arno Bechet, a 30 year old multi-instrumentalist from Perpignan in France. Yes, Southern Badass are French. Before you run off, I’ll let you into a little secret… ‘Born In Mud’ is pretty damn good.
Arno’s vocal delivery is spot on. His Southern drawl carries these tales of grimy characters in seedy places, this is a decent homage to the music that he knows and loves. His voice rings throughout this album in many guises, whether it is snarling and spitting or crooning like a heartbroken lover. Sometimes you do wonder how hard he must have worked on ensuring the sound was as authentic as possible. Other times you just have to shut up and enjoy the album as it is laid out before you.
Regional accents aside, the music is a tour de force with crunching guitars that drip with a deep blues influence and should be played during a bar fight in that mythical Rodriguez film and at times there is more than a nod to the late Darrell Abbott in the pure Southern shred and the cavernous chug that are conjured on tracks like ‘Wrath Temptation’ and ‘The Call Of New Orleans’.
Elsewhere there is the pedal to the metal adrenaline rush of the likes of Fu Manchu on ‘Nowhere Man’ which is just made for tearing down the highway in an open top car whilst the desert wind whips your hair and sand in your face.
This is Born In Mud’s strength though, Bechet isn’t here to convince you that he is any of these things, he is here to tell stories and these are the stories he wants to tell. There is an unashamed sense of joy that oozes from every track – no matter what your opinion maybe of Southern Badass, the one thing that is obvious is that it was fun creating this world and it is incredibly infectious.
The album is not all perfect despite the fact that it has been created by an incredibly adept musician, there are moments where the odd passage seems a little awkward or unnecessary like an attempt at a loose jam or when it verges a little on College Radio music which takes a little of the edge off the listening experience, but when the focus is on creating monstrous stoner anthems then Southern Badass really hit stride.
Basically if you are into bands like Down, Crowbar, CoC and Scissorfight and like your riffs big and whiskey drenched, like your songs to have a swagger and a wild unpredictable side that threatens to hug you or punch you in the face then Born In Mud is made for your stereo.
There are more refined albums that have been released this year, but few I suspect that are as enjoyable.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden