In the space of six short songs, guitarist Dan Mudge covers a lot of ground. While the album features three different vocalists and tracks ranging from sparse acoustic efforts to lush and layered compositions, Mudge manages to maintain a distinct and unified sound.
At a glace, The Mudge EP comes off as straightforward folk and finger-style guitar music, but upon a closer inspection, nuanced complexities and little elements of jazz, indie and classic rock are evident. The album opens innocuously enough, with an instrumental track aptly titled “The Baritone Jam. The track sets a relaxed-yet-confident tone, demonstrating Mudge's guitar virtuosity, as well as his compositional ability to load the layers on a simple riff without weighing down or obscuring the basic idea behind the song.
The second track builds on this framework, but trades in the baritone sensibilities for a track positioned within the mid-to high end of the spectrum, a beautiful and gentle song where the ringing guitar is wonderfully complimented by a delicately resonant bell-set. While the songs seem meticulously constructed, organized and executed, Mudge does let his hair down a little bit on the song, “Drawn to You (Can't Get You Out of my Mind),” a track that seems a bit more free flowing and playful—with a diverse array of layered and intermingling guitar tones, as well as a a sleek and spiraling outro that's faintly reminiscent of the Grateful Dead.
While there's not a bad track on the album, The Mudge EP is at it's absolute best on the two tracks that feature female vocalists. On “Can't Bear to Say,” guest signer Maddie Mae Hicks adds a powerful element to Mudge's compositional chops. Her voice is powerful, at times lighter than air at others dense and resolute, but always full and perfectly on key. The harmonies are perfectly effective, adding emphasis where needed without overpowering the instrumentation that sits as the root of the song. The entire song swoons and sways as a unit, everything working together like a perfectly planned and executed multi-course meal.
Lhani Abernathy, the guest vocalist on “Don't Mess Around,” also utterly impresses and fits perfectly with music, but has a slightly different approach than Hicks. Abernathy's voice is gentle and sweet, with an endearing sense of feigned reluctance guiding her delivery. Her harmonies sweep in, adding weight to vowels and widening out consonants,. The end result is a song as sweet and comforting as a summer day.
Mudge recorded the album at MP and Grimedog studios, where he also mixed and mastered it. The production is on point—effects are never overused and the instruments are allowed the perfect amount of reverb and resonance. Some songs have many layers while others, like the last track, consist of just an acoustic guitar and an intentional wash of room noise—everything on the album feels very well thought out and intentional.
Ultimately, it's a great album that pleasant to hear passively and completely rewarding to listen to actively.
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