The Moondoggies should come doctor recommended. I’ve been listening to their live session over the past few hours with a profound physiological result: truly, my blood pressure has dropped, my breathing has deepened and I feel dilated in general. The Moondoggies require me to slow down. Their music grows on me, warming from the inside like a strong shot of Jameson whiskey. Each song, taken in and savored, becomes an experience tied to my own emotional heart-strings which then evokes a feeling of familiar reminiscence on further listens.
Laid-back, Americana-country-blues-rockers, The Moondoggies – a bunch of guys in their early twenties – are a shoe-in for comments about a sound of yore and comparisons to The Band. The core group of four rides the unmistakable whirl of a Fender Rhodes, creating together a big, slapdash-easy sound with full harmonies that twang, complimented by harmonica and the must-haves: drums, bass and acoustic guitar. At first blush, you get the feeling you might find these guys on a hillbilly porch somewhere replete with washboard and jug, singing away hardships and crowing about a pretty girl, a stiff drink and, perhaps, the goodness of the lord.
That may not be too far off, actually. Favoring lyrical simplicity met with rich vibe, Kevin Murphy values the quality of what arises when friends get together and make music. Murphy propels the group with subtle vocal variety – at times surprisingly chamois-smooth, occasionally rasping; energetically expending on a range from total conservation with few flourishes from neighboring mouth muscles to a more engaged, near-wail. Oh, and by the way, The Moondoggies apparently do have an appointed jug-player (who, unfortunately, didn’t make the trip down).
Deeper in, comparisons to The Band continue to hold while bountiful other references crop up all over. Ol’ Blackbird conjures The Grateful Dead as well as notorious, classic southern rockers. What Took So Long loosely brings up the hoarse soulfulness of beloved Felice Brothers. Murphy swaggers vocally here and there through many of the songs with a charming effect a bit like early Dylan. Every track here is a rich winner. Especially nice is the recording for Old Hound (which refrains the title of their last album, “Don’t be a stranger…”) rambling straight into Make It Easy – 8 sweet minutes of golden, harmony-laden, feel-good material.
Despite similarities to a number of great predecessors, The Moondoggies seem to be less about copying what came before and more about squeezing out some authentic juices from their deep down love of making music.
While hosting The Moondoggies live in our studio was surely an intimate privilege, I’m pretty sure an optimal venue in which to experience the bunch would be hanging out in a grassy backyard under crisp, twinkly night skies and a home-strung canopy of decorative christmas lights. Picture cool moonlight, mountain backdrop, easy-going breeze in the tall trees. If you do get to go to such an event, wear boots. They’ll match the outfit of the band’s character. The Moondoggies fit like a favorite, soft-cloth, snap-down cowboy shirt.
Listen to the Exclusive Live Tracks (option/click to download):