Brandishing a uniquely playful variety of roots rock that is defined as much by its sizzling guitar licks as it is pastoral poetry, The Muddy Crows come ripping out of the underground with their single “Straight Crazy,” from the new extended play of the same name. From the very start of the song, we’re bound to the sway of the strings and their immaculate, bluesy finish that is occasionally flanked with an exotic, pulsating percussion throughout the track. Singer Dan Wolff passionately belts out the chorus with a studded vibrato that is indebted to midcentury pop and British Invasion-influenced rock, but it doesn’t feel out of place in this acoustic environment in the slightest. The Muddy Crows exhibit tremendous organic chemistry in this track, and though they’re still getting their foot in the door with audiences from one side of the states to the next, this Washington, D.C.-based juggernaut is proving to be one of the more sophisticated acts in modern folk music with the release of this sharply-appointed new single.
“Straight Crazy” has a very conventional folk tonality, but there’s absolutely nothing ordinary about its stylish master mix, which has a rather cosmopolitan sleekness that I wasn’t expecting to hear from this band. There’s an undeniable poppiness to the structure of the song, with the star of the track being its swanky central hook in the chorus, but I don’t get the impression that The Muddy Crows were explicitly trying to stylize something for radio airplay. You can’t debate the fact that it would mesh well with various strains of indie rock in a college-formatted playlist, but to say that “Straight Crazy” is merely a product of its generation would be dismissing the genuinely smart aesthetical approach employed in developing this sound.
The Muddy Crows don’t remind me of anyone else, and by that statement I mean to say that they stand alone in a very crowded scene of alternative folk artists that are essentially striving to cultivate the same sort of identity. In their wicked fusion of Americana and urbane, lavish melodicism of a more alternative breed, they deliberately avoid exploiting common themes and theatrics that have led to the demise of a lot of really talented bands that simply got overly ambitious before their moment had arrived. “Straight Crazy” has a smooth, patient tone that is shared by all of this group’s material, and above all else, it’s a testament to their honest originality both by design and in execution.
This latest single from The Muddy Crows is representative of the smoldering indie folk that this award-winning group is on the cusp of taking into the mainstream with them, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s one of the sweeter acoustic numbers I’ve heard this season. They’re not the household name that some of their commercially-backed peers are, but if given the opportunity to reach a mass audience that feels excluded by country music but can’t stomach the plasticity of modern pop/rock, I think that they’ve got a real chance at shaping the sonic personality of their genre significantly as the years go by.