Review by Matty K

September 24, 2020

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No sophomore jinx here for Magnolia Bayou. The boys from Mississippi continue where they left off with their latest release, Strange Place. Eleven tracks of the southern blues rock and story telling that they do so well. The guys stretch their legs on this one, venturing into a more lyrical style without losing their edge. There are some standout tracks on this one that really showcase the softer side of what these guys can do and they don’t disappoint.

The album jumps out of the gate with "Dig Deep." A hard driving track that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go for 4:12. The riffs are gritty and the licks are like lightening bolts through the speakers. Andrew Fulton’s soulful vocals are reminiscent of the great southern rock frontmen of decades past. You can hear the influences but the delivery is fresh in your face.

The dirty bass sound, laid down by Josh Estes, on "Sleepin’ In The Dog House" demands your attention and really sets the tone on this track. The virtuosity of Walton Jones is featured on this one. His work on the keys really brings the arrangement together perfectly.

The third track on the album, "Sugarspell," kicks in with a deliciously foreboding and witchy groove. Cedric Feazell’s drum work on this one is superb. He hits hard and plays soulfully with ample technique. "Sugarspell" is a “sweeet” track and one of my personal favorites on the record.

"Preachin’ Blues" is one of the standout tracks on the album. Dylan Palmiero gives a clinic on how to make a slide guitar sing on this one and when that honky-tonk piano joins in the jam … if you’re not vibing on that western sound, then you better check your pulse. A deal at the crossroads surely had to help them put this one together….amen! "Hands In the Dirt" … another lyrical heavy hitter. A song of redemption with well executed tempo changes that mimic the emotional swings of a tormented soul. The vocals on this track will open your ears and drop your jaw.

Next up is "From The Other Side" … wow! This is where the album really starts to represent the growth in the band’s sound. The guitar work, bass tone, and tribal drums let you know immediately that this track isn’t for the innocent. The raw emotion that delivers the seductive lyrics translates to the passion of the groove flawlessly. I think I hear an STP influence on this one…what do you think?

Is there anything more bluesy than the harmonica? You get a full does of it on the next track… "The Robber." Here’s more of the story telling the group excels at. In the tradition of Cash or Nelson, the lyrics demand your full attention. Don’t be fooled though … the bridge includes some of the most aggressive playing on the entire album.

You might think by the title that "Hurricane" is going to be a loud and in your face hard rocking track but…not the case. On this one the guys change it up again. With a regional vibe they deliver a heartfelt tribute to all of those that have suffered through disaster and persevered.

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A time comes with every band where the touring in itself becomes inspiration. This is the case with "Tupelo." An upbeat track by a band with a bright future. This one features everything there is to love about this band … instrumentally and vocally including a great backing performance by Maggie Brown.

Okay… here it is, the single … "Sweet Magnolia." Stellar songwriting on a huge step forward for the band. A crossover track that deserves its place on the country and western, pop, and rock charts. The beautiful melodies, ethereal harmonies and bittersweet lyrics will captivate and enchant you. The band’s depth and dimension shine throughout. Bravo!

The final track, "Thieves," brings back a rocking groove but at the same time, shows us yet another weapon in the arsenal. A piece filled with funky bass lines and wah filters that lays down a sound that sets this track apart from rest. Is it a taste of what’s to come on the next release?

We’re served up a heaping portion of rock on this record but at the same time still left hungry for more, it’s that good. All the guys have their performances dialed in on this one and their collaboration with some fantastic featured artists only further demonstrates the kind of writing and production skills that we’re dealing with here. Magnolia Bayou might be taking us to a “Strange Place” with this one but…I’m not leaving!

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