© 2013 Max Recordings
The sixteen songs wonderfully captured on Mulehead's final album show a band not at last gasp but at a strident, fully realized moment in time. From the understated organic beauty of “Hammers” and “Crows Up On A Wire” to the raucous deliverance felt in “Stubborn Blood”, Mulehead display a remarkable ability to craft truly great tunes in the rock and roll / country genre mash up. Sequestered in drummer Geoff Curran’s attic studio, the band set about the task of documenting what would be the final recorded chapter of the band’s career. Now some 8 months since their last public appearance, Mulehead is preparing to emerge with a damn fine album in tow and a gaggle of fans champing at the bit to see the band out again. Hop on board for what promises to be an exciting exit for Little Rock’s favorite sons.
"Finer Thing, recently released on Little Rock’s active little label Max Recordings, is supposedly the last album by Mulehead. Led by guitarist/singer/songwriter Kevin Kerby, Mulehead made ornery country-tinged rock starting around 1998. If Mulehead was bent on conquering the world, it has gone about it in a roundabout way. Counting this last album, Mulehead has released four full-length CDs on a fairly irregular schedule. The group snagged a profile in the nationally-distributed No Depression magazine and glowing reviews by smaller publications and Web site fanatics. Otherwise, Mulehead has seemingly been content to remain an Arkansas secret. What a pity for the rest of the nation. It would figure that the closing number turns out to be Mulehead’s best work, something that will wear well after repeated plays. But that doesn’t go far enough. Finer Things is a great piece of Arkansas literature, right up there with Ho-Hum’s Sanduleak, the novels of Charles Portis and Sim’s barbecue. It’s a golden bottle rocket, a deep bow at the end of a show that you should have paid more attention to. No doubt Kerby, who has a contrarian streak in him a mile wide, couldn’t be happier about it. Leave ’em wanting more. And so he does. Finer Things seems at once more coherent and more diverse than early Mulehead records. There’s not one song here that sounds as country or bare-knuckled honky-tonk as the ones found on The Gospel Accordion II or Try Again, but there’s heart-stopping lap steel turns ("Cottonmouths and Copperheads") and mandolins that come in as sharp and pretty as stars in the night sky ("Crows on a Wire"). Mulehead took eight months to record Finer Things in drummer Geoff Curran’s attic studio. The process has sanded off the band’s rough edges and Curran, who produced the album, has fleshed out the songs, given them some weight. It could have worked against Kerby, who has an endless supply of clever one-liners but who could have looked ridiculous fronting Wilco-like, country-prog explorations. Instead, the music grounds Kerby and he comes across fully realized — a shaggy, engaging crank, a front porch Miller Williams with a hangover. Mortality is the fact that hovers over this record, which starts off with Kerby’s reluctant admission that "if you never go to another rock show, that will be OK." Then, just for spite, 10 tracks later Kerby unleashes "Stubborn Blood," a blistering, psychedelic freak-out guitar rock song. But Finer Things doesn’t have a problem contradicting itself or tossing out beyondgoofy lounge instrumentals ("Deep Water") on a whim. It’s a record that luxuriates in found sound (the sweet organ in "Out on the Porch") and follows its muse wherever it leads. Kerby’s muse keeps leading him to unexpectedly relevant places. He finds meaning in warning about snakes ("Cottonmouths and Copperheads" ) and in, of all things, gardening ("Gardener’s Manifesto" ). Hellhounds might not be on Kerby’s trail, but he has tired and creaky bones, it’s getting late and he’s not happy about it at all. "Please don’t leave me to my devices. My devices left me here," he sings in "Eventually." There’s enough goofy sweetness and real sentiment to balance out the complaints. The acoustic "Favorite Song" is a heartbreaker. Kerby croaks at one point, "Here comes the thunder, here comes the lightning." How apt. This record comes out not too long after Kerby has had his first child. It’s probably the reason he’s hanging up his guitar. We don’t think (we hope) it will be too long before Kerby picks it up again. He’s going to have to do some work to best the garden of delights that is Finer Things." - Werner Trieschmann / Arkansas Democrat Gazette (October 2004)