(Animalville Records, CD)
One man's mud season is another man's inspiration -- and that man is Raph Worrick. As the chief visionary for the Addison County quintet Dirtminers, Worrick pulls tales of love and death out of the muck that clumps to the sides of his boots. These earthy tales have been captured on the Dirtminers' new EP, Meat and Electricity.
Despite containing seven tracks, the disc clocks in at less than 20 minutes. That means things move faster on this album than they typically do in Addison County. Worrick and co. showcase some major diversity on this set, however.
Rocking, foot-stomping honky-tonk numbers such as "The Day I Met You" and "Addison County Clay" impress with their immediacy. These two as well as "Doctor Bag" could peel the paint off the wall of your local drinking hole. While the music -- particularly Wayne Reiss' hammering piano style -- works well, Worrick's vocals seem to channel Meatloaf at the '70s cock-rocker's sweatiest moments. It's distracting, sometimes to the point of derailing.
In contrast, "Mississippi" and "Clever Hans" ooze with darkness and atmosphere that is only hinted at on other cuts. The weeping organ and plaintive acoustic strumming on "Clever Hans" provides a convincing backdrop for Worrick's mournful paean to lost love. Driven by a nifty bass line, "Mississippi" schools the listener on the folly of running from misery. The track is punctuated by an echo-laden guitar riff that appears like red ink on his audio essay.
The sexual overtones on "You Just Don't Care" contrast with the gospel tunes it mimics musically. While this tension makes the song stand out, it unfortunately lacks a strong hook. "Death of a Barn Cat" is a mid-tempo folk number that sounds a bit like an outtake from Bob Dylan's Under the Red Sky.
EPs are generally made for one of two reasons: Bands sometimes use them as test balloons in advance of their debut albums to see how fans react; or they may use them to try out a variety of music that doesn't jibe with their other work. It's not clear which way Dirtminers are leaning, but my guess is the latter. Overall, Meat and Electricity works best when exploring the mellower mode. Here's hoping their next release takes some of the pressure off.