Album Review – Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules’ ‘Let Me off at the Bottom’

Daniel Meade and The Flying Mules

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.

Grade: 9/10

Review – Stanford Road’s “The Messenger”

Stanford Road

Last November I was introduced to the UK country group Stanford Road. The band is made up of the husband-wife duo Terry Muller and Rachael Muller. For those who don’t remember, they call themselves Stanford Road because that was the name of the street they met each other and lived as neighbors. Their Open Ended EP they released last November was a very good collection of music. Today I look at their brand new single “The Messenger,” to see if they can deliver good music again.

The song starts off with some soft acoustic guitar play and this is the only instrumentation used throughout the song. It only rises and lowers in tempo in the appropriate spots. I like this singer-songwriter, stripped down approach Stanford Road uses in their music. Many times with country music “less is more” is usually true and this something I’m always screaming at mainstream acts when I’m reviewing another overproduced offering from them. It also makes great sense for a duo, especially a duo like this that writes their own songs, because a great duo is always defined by their harmonies and balance of vocals.

As for the theme and lyrics, the song is set in a time of war and how someone deals with the bad news brought to them by the messenger boy. The lyrics that stood out to me in this song are when Rachael crooned:

“The beautiful solider, married a year/She wanted to hold you forever and keep you near/Oh won’t you stop, why can’t you wait?/Don’t want you breaking news today/Give them tonight or let the truth be a lie/Messenger boy you’ll never destroy this place of hallowed ground.”

The woman in the song is struggling to come to grips with the reality of her situation and realize that she has lost the love of her life to the war. She hopes it is all a lie and doesn’t want the messenger boy to deliver the news that will tear down her walls. The “hallowed ground” refers to the love between the husband and wife that is now destroyed because the husband died in the war. Rachael’s vocals do a fantastic job of expressing the somber and dark mood of this song. While it took me a few listens to really grasp this song, once I did grasp what this song is about it definitely makes you feel the pain and sorrow of the woman in the song.

Stanford Road once again delivers with “The Messenger.” It’s a song filled with emotion that will certainly move most listeners. The lyrics are simple, yet very effective. The instrumentation drives the mood of this song perfectly. Both Terry and Rachael harmonize well together, most notably on the chorus when they sing the word “hallowed” together to really set the tone of this song. I would definitely recommend checking out Stanford Road’s “The Messenger.” Country music needs more heartfelt songs like this one.

Grade: 9/10

EP Review – Stanford Road’s Open Ended

Stanford Road EP

While the majority of country music reviewed on Country Perspective comes from America, sometimes I like to go across the pond and review something from neighbors in the United Kingdom. Today is one of those times as I review the new EP from Stanford Road called Open Ended. Stanford Road is made up of Terry ‘Blackjaz’ Muller and Rachael Muller, a husband and wife duo. The reason they call themselves Stanford Road is because it’s the name of the street where they first met and lived as neighbors. Open Ended is their first ever EP, which they recorded at Aubitt Studios in Southhampton, UK with producer Rob Aubrey. They wrote the majority of the songs on this album, as they are songwriters. They also cover one song I’m sure many of you are quite familiar with. So let’s take a look at the duo’s first EP.

The EP starts off with a song called “Letters.” This song is about a woman who falls in love with a man who she considers the devil, similar to how her mother fell in love with a man who she considered the devil too. This is an Americana song with country influences. I have to say the duo is quite good together and the Rachael’s voice is quite powerful. The lyrics help tell the story well and I overall find the song to be quite solid. This is followed up with “So Wrong,” which seems to be a self-reflective song about the husband and wife’s relationship together. Everyone, including themselves thought they were so wrong together. But after seven years together they’ve proven doubters wrong. It’s a nice little love song that let’s the duo’s personalities shine through. I like the mandolin play in this song too.

“Independence Highway” is an upbeat song about someone leaving home and going out on their own. The person finds out it’s harder than they thought out on their own and the father brings them home later in the song. The message of this song is slanted towards a younger listener who is just starting out in life. I like the beat of this song and it’s easy on the ears. The next song, “Fool’s Comfort,” takes a sadder tone. This song is about a relationship falling apart and the feeling of love in the relationship becoming a fool’s comfort. Again I think Rachael’s voice really shines and gives this song the raw emotion it needs to reach the listener. A solid heartbreak ballad.

Open Ended concludes with their cover of Brooks & Dunn’s Grammy winning song, “Cowgirls Don’t Cry.” This song of course was made by popular by the duo and later they did a collaboration with Reba McEntire on the song. It’s a mid tempo paced song about a girl who is taught by her father that cowgirls don’t cry. She remembers this throughout hardships in her life and by the end of the song she calls her dad on the phone after finding out he’s dying. He reminds her that she shouldn’t cry again. It’s a powerful song and I think Stanford Road did a great job covering it and hitting the emotional points. This is by no means an easy song to sing and its great awareness by the duo to pick a song they know they can do justice to it. Too many artists pick songs to cover that are outside their comfort zone. Not only do they cover it well, but they put their own twist on it to make it their own.

This is a nice little offering from Stanford Road and they certainly show some potential. I would describe their overall sound more Americana than country, but there are certainly influences of country along with folk. These are all solid showings and in the future I hope they tackle deeper material. They also need to focus more on harmonies, as a duo’s bread and butter should always be their harmonies (look at Shovels & Rope). This is just the beginning for the duo though and I’m sure they will find themselves and their perfect sound as their career progresses. It’s really difficult to judge EP as it’s only really a quick look at what an artist can offer. I feel there weren’t any bad spots on this EP and the only criticisms I have are very minor: more music and music with a little more depth. Other than that a good showing for Stanford Road. Once again I take a trip across the pond for a review and find more great music from the UK.

Grade: 8.5/10