The Mumlers: Don’t Throw Me Away

Mumlers_Don'tThrowMeAwayMesmerizing old-timey soul music with a mysterious touch

The Mumlers’ music seems to float from a Victrola wedged into a dark corner of a mysterious antique shop. Will Sprott sings like a megaphoned apparition, and the group’s horn arrangements have the languor of a New Orleans funeral parade that accidentally marched into a morning-after session at Stax. Even when the band adds a psychedelic organ groove, such as on “Coffin Factory,” the vibe still draws one to the beyond. This is surprising, given the Mumlers home base of San Jose, California, the population anchor at the south end of the San Francisco Bay that’s christened itself the Capital of Silicon Valley. You don’t know the way to this San Jose.

The group’s second album stretches even further than their debut (Thickets & Snitches), including the trad jazz and blues of “Tangled Up With You” and slinky second-line of “St. James Street.” The latter echoes the standard “St. James Infirmary,” but is actually a straight-up description of Sprott’s urban San Jose neighborhood. The group connects to loungecore with a slowly careening instrumental cleverly entitled “The Instrumental.” The band drifts between jazzy melodies for movie scores, circus music and the swinging-60s vibe of Bob Crewe’s “Music to Watch Girls By.” The genre mash-ups are terrifically organic, and in addition to guitars, stand-up bass, drums, keyboards, and horns, the Mumlers include euphonium, clarinet, French horn and pedal steel.

“Fugitive and Vagabond” features piano, harmonica, cymbal crashes and a whistled solo that seems to have been skimmed from aspaghetti western, and the set closes with the soulfully crooned “Don’t Throw Me Away,” an original that should have graced many a 1950s school dance. The Mumlers’ unusual influences and free-wheeling approach result in the sort of shape-shifting one would expect from a group named after a nineteenth century charlatan who made a living selling photos of ghosts to bereaved families. The Mumlers are the real deal, however, and their second album is one of the year’s most eclectic spins. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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2 Responses to “The Mumlers: Don’t Throw Me Away”

  1. …Hey! Great post. Thank you for the heads up on this. Right up the proverbial alley, as they say.

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