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Muzzlewhite | Our Caravan (Big Dipper)
"Mum is the local karaoke queen / Dad was a roadie in a metal band." There's tragedy in the everyday for sure, although Muzzlewhite don't always succeed in painting it as vividly as they do in Local Karaoke Queen. The title track, say, convincingly makes the point that while it's a fine line between light-hearted innocence and self-mocking parody, it's not a line you'll want to cross too often. The additions of banjo, harmonica and acoustic guitars (to which the Muzzlewhite of yore were vehemently opposed) are noteworthy and enriching, but the band sounds uncomfortable displaying their newfound sense of a varied instrumentation, and they generally prefer to stick with the basic campfire set-up. It can all be a bit too self-effacing at times, but they should certainly be admired for their ardent musical self-restriction. Maintaining their ratio of a couple of real gems per album, Muzzlewhite fail to realise the potential hinted at by last year's sophomore self-titled release, with only two songs measuring up against their best moments: Sagging Front Porch is a delightfully poignant track about tired resignation, sung with convincing held-back despair. And there's Step Forth, Muzzlewhite's take on the Replacements' Americana, presenting a welcome change from the band's regular rootsy, politely strumming selves.

Stein Haukland
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003