Some of the best music is the kind you can pick right up, listen to it and instantly just get it. On that very first listen you know you’re listening to something great. That’s how I would describe my first listen of the newest album from Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules. Based out of the UK, the band is made up of Meade, Lloyd Reid on electric guitar, Mark Ferrie on double bass and Thomas Sutherland on the drums. Their new album, titled Let Me off at the Bottom, is the first Meade & The Flying Mules have released as a group (Meade previously released two solo albums) after successfully headlining two UK tours in 2015. This summer they will be supporting Sturgill Simpson on all of his UK tour dates, a worthy honor and something that should help them gain even more exposure. I can say they wholeheartedly deserve more attention after listening to Let Me off at the Bottom because this album is great from start to finish.
The rollicking, piano-driven “Back to Hell” starts the album off with a fun, easy to get into tune. It’s a drinking song with some impressive guitar play that’ll pull you right into this album and won’t let go until you finish hearing it all. “There’s a Headstone Where Her Heart Used To Be” is a heartbreak song that follows. Meade sings of a man who’s had his heart-broken by a woman and proclaims she was so heartless in doing so that there’s now a headstone where her heart used to be. It’s a cleverly written song with a slightly playful nature while also driving across how heartbroken this man has become.
Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules keep with that slightly playful nature on “Ghosts and Crocodiles.” It’s song like these where you can tell how much fun the band is having and in turn that rubs off on the listener. The instrumentation is just impossible to not like. Meade slows it down on “He Should’ve Been Mine.” The song is about a man who finds a woman he still loves has had a child and when he looks at him he proclaims it should have been his child. But he’s happy to put the past behind and move on now. It’s really a song about just being able to let go of “what ifs” and looking forward. This is definitely one of the best songs on the album.
The album’s title track is about getting tired of being at the top and settling for just being at the bottom. The bright lights and being known by all can take its toll on someone who performs and I can imagine they sometimes yearn for the days of being in the shadows. The steel guitar-driven “Poison Dart” follows. It’s about a love stricken man who likes his love for a woman like a poison dart to the heart. Everything about this song has that classic country love song feel, from the lyrics to the instrumentation. “Please Louise” is an upbeat song that’ll have you tapping your feet long with the rhythm. With a tongue in cheek, the song is about a man being coerced by a father into a shotgun wedding with his daughter. He says he doesn’t mind her “big behind,” but he just isn’t in love with her and hopes she doesn’t say yes when he asks her to marry him. The silly, folksy nature just makes this a fun song you can listen to over and over.
Meade & The Flying Mules keep up the upbeat, light-hearted nature on “Lock up Your Daughter.” It’s about a man wanting to marry a woman, but he knows her parents won’t approve and says they should probably lock their daughter up now because he badly wants to be with her. Reid sounds excellent on the guitar throughout this album, but this song he really shines. After a couple of these silly songs though, Meade goes to the opposite end of the spectrum with “Leave Me to Bleed.” In fact it’s deathly serious, as a man sits and mourns after his future wife has committed suicide. He’s left with survivor’s guilt and alone, trying to find a way to mend his broken heart and life. The song is a real tear-jerker and punches you right in the gut with the lyrics. While Meade & The Flying Mules are really good at the fun songs, they’re also pretty damn good at serious songs and that’s the mark of an excellent band.
“Count the Roses” is a soulful tune about self-reflection. A man remembers some old advice his father gave him and he told him “when this world has its way, you’ll wind up with a face that you deserve.” It’s pretty sound advice that basically says karma will give or take based on what you’ve done. After following up an excellent song in “Leave Me to Bleed,” it can be easy to overlook this one. But you shouldn’t because it’s subtly great. The heartbreak drinking song “The Bottle Called for Me” concludes the album and it’s a fitting way to do so. It encompasses the common themes of the album and Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules: fun-loving in nature, but serious in theme. The song is about a man recalling when “the bottle called” for him and when it was when his wife of three years left. The song closes out with an emphatic chorus singing the hook and putting an exclamation point on the album.
Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules firmly establish themselves as one of the best groups in country and Americana today with Let Me off at the Bottom. Yes, you heard that right and I do not mince my words. Meade & The Flying Mules are as talented as about any group in country and Americana today. I would best describe them as The Mavericks (the soulful, catchy lyrics) meet Old Crow Medicine Show (the folky, roots sound). The instrumentation is flawless throughout the album keeping it fun when they need to while also setting the tone perfectly on the more melancholy tunes. The songwriting is sharp, witty and even deeper than meets the eyes. Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules are the real deal and is a group that deserves to be heard by all country and Americana fans.