Wolfgang Marrow Bad Advice Album cover

There’s something about Wolfgang Marrow that always makes me think of the live music/club scene in Black Snake Moan. And I don’t know why, but I think it’s something more than the Southern swampy Blues music they’ve got in common. Yes, the movie might be seen as an exploitative look at a sexy half-naked girl who’s chained up throughout most of the film, but behind its marketing campaign, it was a celebration of classic blues music, where it really comes from, and what it truly means. And Wolfgang Marrow‘s debut album, Bad Advice, might be the same…

“Sometimes, that kind of blues will make you even kill one another or do anything that kind of low.” – Son House

But let’s be clear: Wolfgang Marrow isn’t any kind of pop-blues. This isn’t The Black Keys or Jack White or Dan Patlansky or anything you’d have heard over a mainstream media radio station. They’re more R.L. Burnside, Seasick Steve, or John Lee Hooker. They’re raw, stripped-down, and moody as hell – yet they can still make you dance if they want. Tracks like Shadow and a Threat is an excellent example of this: it’s evocative and narrative, interjected with beat-heavy, danceable choruses. Even when discussing lost faith in Scarlet Room, Wolfgang Marrow does it with energy and a pseudo-masochistic smile.

Wolfgang Marrow

And Wolfgang Marrow checks the Mississippi blues boxes, one by one:

Rough, gritty, whiskey-soaked vocals? Check. Slide guitar? Check. Minimal arrangements? Check. Mentions of whiskey, devils, killers, curses, and bloodlust? Check. They even throw touches of organs and pianos in every now and then.

Though I have no proof to back this up (or shoot it down, mind you), Bad Advice sounds like the kind of record where guitar slides used isn’t the shop-bought variety – the energy and rough-and-ready sound wants to suggest beerbottle slides, cigarbox guitars, and DIY drumkits. There’s a real, homemade quality to the recordings that sound genuine and heartfelt – never lo-fi or inferior. And the kind of blues they play is my favourite kind – where the typical sorrow and misery is an important element, but the end product plays like a celebration, not a commiseration.

Wolfgang Marrow is a party. Yes, they’re preaching The Blues, but they’re not forcing anything. And their album is the same. Recommended to any fans of classic Southern Blues. Or newcomers. You know what? Bad Advice will either be a 52 minute-long Dirty Blues celebration, an introduction, or a fun break from whatever you usually listen to.

Wolfgang Marrow is a Strange Folk/Dirty Blues band from Bloemfontein. Their debut album, Bad Advice, is available on iTunes.