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Port City Prophets – Mule | Album Review

Port City Prophets - Mule 
Self-Produced
CD: 10 songs; 47:10 Minutes
Styles: Traditional Electric Blues, Low-Country Blues, Blues Rock

On James Island, South Carolina, between the swamp and thousand-year-old oaks, stands a “Mule.” This particular “animal” may not be gray and doesn’t bray, but if you’re a low-country blues fan, it’ll stick stubbornly in your head! This debut album by the Port City Prophets, recorded in the above-mentioned setting, contains ten original tracks. “Mule’s” drivers are guitarist Troy Tolle, keyboardist Bill Nance, St. Louis native Tim Kirkendall on bass and vocals, and drummers Henry Ancrum and Eric Rickert. Before the “PCP” were discovered by this reviewer, they commanded the attention of Steve “The Blues Boss” Simon. Creator of three blues festivals and “Steve Simon Presents,” he remarked that “great new talent only comes along once in a blue moon.” Guess what color it was when he first watched and listened to the Prophets’ testimony? They excel on lyrics, instrumentation, and vocals – winning the elusive blues trifecta. Containing stylistic elements of Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Veldman Brothers, and Too Slim and the Taildraggers, their music is relentlessly addicting. Witness these three smoking songs: 

Track 02: “Jesus Saved My Soul, But…” – This slow burner begins with a roaring intro that brings damnation to mind instead of salvation. Our broke narrator is torn between these two places: “Jesus saved my soul, but my money belongs to my wife. It’s a good thing that heaven’s free, because that old lady, she sure is tight!” He tries to hide some of it, but to no avail. Tim Kirkendall’s best guitar playing is displayed here, as is the band’s musical essence: down-and-dirty. 

Track 07: “Let Me Breathe” – “Your lips say you love me. Your hands say that you love me, oh, but your eyes -your eyes look away.” Such stunning imagery, so visceral that one can feel it, begins “Let Me Breathe.” Its themes of deception and heartbreak are timeless blues topics, but the Prophets’ take on them will give listeners a re-education. Bill Nance’s keyboards add the subtle sound of falling raindrops in the middle of Kirkendall’s fiery fretwork. Blues radio stations: put an APB on this song, and quickly!

Track 10: “Pluff Mud” – The substance mentioned in this tune’s title may be disgusting – stinky marsh mud found in the swamps of South Carolina – but the Prophets’ instrumental about it is delightful. Its intro and outro are perky acoustic refrains, but don’t be fooled: one will be dancing and playing air guitar during the electric portion. “Pluff Mud” is one of the most fitting songs for live performances, for which the PCP are popular. It’s a surefire crowd pleaser, and perfect for a rightly-demanded encore.

Purists may comment that this album is more blues-rock than blues, but they won’t be entirely right. Also, the CD may lack the finesse and state-of-the-art production value of blues groups with big label backing, but only a “Mule” would kick it to the curb!

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