Review: Red Mouth – Toska

Posted on: Sunday, Apr 19, 2015


Red Mouth – Toska

(Red Mouth Records: RMRCD0020)

We have waited far too long to get round to looking at this one, perhaps because nobody quite knew what to make of it. Yes, this is American roots music but a headier mix you would struggle to find.

Eric ‘Red Mouth’ Gebhardt was born in Texas, lives in Muscle Shoals and has assembled a fine array of musicians to help him stir what is a potent moonshine. He’s certainly got soul – plus a vocal delivery that factors in Tom Waits, Screaming Jay Hawkins plus Beefheart and a dash of Nick Cave.

He calls his songs “dark tales of love and the bizarre” and his lyrics do remind me of the scorched earth and dark melancholia of Seattle’s The Walkabouts, musically as well on opener ‘Black Old Bones’, with its haunting organ and violin, all behind Gebhardt’s swampy howl.

Rhythm section throughout is bass man Jimbo Hart and Chad Gamble (drums) from former Drive By Trucker Jason Isbell’s 500 Unit. Cody Gaisser is main guitarist, chewing away gently at the bluesy ‘Sugar Sugar’. Harvey Thompson’s baritone sax rumbles on this one but on one or two other tracks he plays a stormer. Backing vocals from Louisa Murray, Kim Tibbs and Britany Faith are used sparingly, adding more standard phrasing into the vocal mix.

There are two covers, neither being what you might call rearranged but with Red Mouth’s vocal style, they certainly are more demonstrative. Heavier than Iggy Pop? Well the version of Osterberg’s ‘Johanna’ has a weighty, almost anthemic quality, Gaisser, for once, going wild plus glorious sax by Thompson and punchy piano from Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes.

The other non-original is ‘She’s Got A Crush On Me’, so wonderfully covered by Paul Thorn a couple years back. Red Mouth’s vocal delivery is at its most undemanding here on a southern country-soul song which could have been from Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham but was actually penned by Donnie Fritts and Billie Lawson. The masterstroke here is getting Fritts to sit in on the session, underpinning his song with glorious electric piano. The addition of trumpet and trombone is also just perfect.

But Gebhardt can deliver the country stuff himself too. ‘Long Gone Train of Mine’ may have a slightly twisted delivery but it could be a standard, helped along by the return of Kate Tyler Hunt’s fiddle. Here’s one hipster who deserves to wear his beard with pride.


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