Five years and four albums into a career that’s found them drawing circles around the lower 48, building a burgeoning national fan base, Dangermuffin embodies a curious paradox. The themes found within their striking new collection, Olly Oxen Free, sum up that juxtaposition.
This Folly Beach, S.C.-based trio are clearly at peace with themselves and their career, while keeping up a constant pursuit of truth. The seeds they’ve planted at major festivals around the nation grow as fast as the mileage on their odometer, yet they dream and sing of home with a yearning passion. Most strikingly, the band’s musical execution remains refreshingly simple, belying a staggering lyrical and thematic depth behind each individual song.
Dangermuffin can no longer be plainly dubbed an Americana or roots-rock band. Behind the virtuosic rhythms of drummer Steven Sandifer, the group seamlessly segues from calypso to world beat to a down-home shuffle, often within the same song. When guitarist Mikie Sivilli steps in with a powerful slide-driven lead, one might even venture to call it Southern rock. But by the time songwriter Dan Lotti sings the first words of another verse with his unmistakable light rasp, the listener is undeniably back on the beach, pondering both the world’s pleasures and ills through sandy toes.
The follow-up to 2010’s Moonscapes, which produced tracks that received generous airplay on both SiriusXM’s Jam_On and Outlaw Country stations, Olly Oxen Free demonstrates heightened ambitions and a refined, road-polished outfit ready to take on even more. Opener ‘Slumber’ greets us with an enveloping sense of hope. The ska beat of ‘Battle’ gives way to a fierce guitar solo, before ‘200 Degrees’ comes in batting cleanup. The fourth track on the disc, that song’s memorable riff serves as an epic reminder that Dangermuffin has no plans to rest on their laurels.
Olly Oxen Free never turns its back on the audience for a moment. Recorded at Truphonic Studios in Charleston with producer MJ Fick, even the album’s peaceful acoustic interlude, ‘Jaula,’ feels like a breath of fresh ocean air; an unexpected, serene eye of a perfect summer storm.
From ‘Homestead’ to ‘Rattle the Cage,’ Lotti’s songwriting encourages us to be free, revel in the simple beauty of our complicated lives, and always seek out healing answers. Like the cry bellowed during a children’s game of hide-and-seek, Olly Oxen Free signals that it’s safe to come out from our hiding spots, gather together, and celebrate late into the evening. Dangermuffin is more ready than ever to provide the soundtrack.