There’s a lot of studio magic happening in music today. I don’t say that in a complimentary way. I’m talking about the propensity for the use of auto-tune and the like to render the vocal and instrumental performances of many contemporary artists as almost cartoonish in quality. Give me real over processed anytime, whether it be my music, my cheese, or whatever.
On Heritage, the latest release by the curiously-named Charleston band Dangermuffin, there’s no possibility of the music contained within being mistaken for Velveeta. Recorded in part in the historic Unitarian Church in Charleston’s historic district, the eight songs of the new album have an undeniably organic feel to them. The members of Dangermuffin have shown on previous releases that they have a firm grasp on the concept of mixing the harmony of their music with the abstract imagery of their lyrics. On Heritage that skillful blending continues with some truly beautiful performances.
On the album’s leadoff track, “Ode to My Heritage”, lead singer Dan Lotti’s a cappella vocals beautifully resonate at the song’s start before a decidedly Big Easy rhythm with vibrant drums and resonator guitar kick in. It’s an ambitious start, but Dangermuffin proves to be able to maintain the pace with subsequent tracks. “Waves” would sound right at home on Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints, while “Ancient Family” adds a touch of glockenspiel to a transcendental track that would make The Samples smile in approval. The reggae tempo of “Ol‘ Fidel” will ensure Heritage gets many plays from phones and boomboxes (yes, some of us still use them) at local beaches this summer. The percussion-heavy “One Last Swim” that rounds out the album reminds the listener once again of some of the best moments from Paul Simon’s best work from the ’80s and beyond with its world music feel. Two of the best tracks on Heritage shine for very different reasons. “Methuselah’s Song”, which I was lucky enough to hear performed live a few months back inside the Unitarian Church, features gorgeous harmonized vocals over a deceptively simple rhythm of drums and acoustic guitar, while the album standout “The Sea and The Rose” envelops the listener with its beautiful lyric imagery (“Fragrant nectar/Calling me, calling me/The sea and the rose”).
Dangermuffin has long been a favorite of music lovers both here in Charleston and as far away as Colorado, where the band has a vibrant following. With Heritage, the band takes another huge step toward mainstream success. The music is beautiful, hypnotic, and (best of all) genuine.