My favorite works is music that grow on you. They are much more rewarding in the long run. The latest album by J.W. Schuller, entitled “No Mud in Joyville” grows on you because it is complex. Schuller is truly an artist and this is not sugar-coated indie-folk. That is what makes this duo (J.W. Schuller is now accompanied by his nephew Jens Larsen on drums and backing vocals) great. You have to get to this music, it will not come to you. So switch off your mainstream radio, and go and find this. Produced, recorded and mixed at Underwood Studios in Minneapolis by Mark Stockert, who has worked with the likes of Brian Setzer, Charlie Parr, Dead Man Winter, Chastity Brown, Noah Levy, and Martin Devaney, this album is bold, daring, full of good songwriting, demonstrative of superb musicianship, and yet ironically it always remains playfully accessible.
I don’t know if the previous album by J.W. Schuller is even more phenomenal or what, but this album should have a 5 star rating. You have to listen to this with the volume turned up loud, not because it only rocking or anything like that, instead it’s because J.W. Schuller can be the quietest artist in the world when he wants to.
You have to turn it up loud just to hear everything that’s going on – between lyric and music – and then like a prank, he swells to a point where any louder would be too loud, but he stops right at that volume before slowly, sinking back down again.
“No Mud in Joyville” is seminal in the sense that it is not afraid to be what it is. Its acoustic driven soundscapes take you anywhere J.W. Schuller has in mind, between Americana styled ballads and rowdy, upbeat jams. Sometimes both in the same song, and maybe even in contrast to what the lyrics are saying.
Each track weaves cleverly into a fantastic canvas of the entirety. Everything about this album screams awesomeness to me. The crisp, pared-down production, stylistic diversity in songs that somehow still feel of piece of a whole, and most of all, brilliant lyrical content; either humorously inscrutable or achingly straightforward as needed, but always poetic.
Few songwriters can so skillfully turn a phrase better than J.W. Schuller, and examples abound here. You just need to sit down and absorb it. Listen and let it grow into you. The songs are all unpredictable, perhaps starting in one area and ending in a totally different one.
For instance, “Mental Checklist” opens in an extended jam session, and closes slightly above a whisper. And “Caterpillars” is a delicious piece of orchestral groove-pop that becomes increasingly catchy as you listen to it more.
The titular track “No Mud in Joyville” is an incredible, cascading song that starts off folky two step march, before transcending into a euphoric jam. The melodic beauty of “Poor Little Us” evokes the Beatles, while the album on a whole will spark memories in your mind and emotions in your heart.
At times it feels sparse and airy, and at times it feels rich and earthy. I find my favorite flavors in the quieter “God & Everybody” and the insistent strum of “Whisper in the Morning”. All across these tracks J.W. Schuller proves that he has more than one trick up his sleeve, as his musical exploits weave kaleidoscopes about our ears. And oh what a fabulous feeling it is!