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New Music: Mama Moonshine

April 1, 2015

Music | by Sophia Miles

On a brisk February night amid the unrelenting grip of winter, a devoted throng of northern souls were warmed as they descended on Manchester’s Antwerp Mansion, witnessing London-based four-piece Mama Moonshine showcase their unique brand of funk infused rhythm and blues with a tantalising soul twist.

The secluded and somewhat unorthodox DIY music venue resting just off the Oxford Road corridor has catered to some of the biggest nights in the underground drum & bass scene, while providing a creative outlet for the city’s eternally innovative arts world. This night was no less invigorating, as the band entered with Ruth Armitt on lead vocals, Phil Taylor on guitar, AB Benson on bass and Mark Buckwell on drums, each adopting distinct on-stage personas in forming an absorbing collective unit.

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The gripping ‘Sky Searching’ is an emotional slow burner; beginning with jangling guitar chords alongside a snaking Beatles ‘Come Together’ evoking bassline, before jolting into grooving rhythms as Armitt reveals a tale of frustration and broken trust exclaimed in repeated cries of ‘I wish you were normal’. Armitt’s diversified vocal range immediately commanded attention throughout, encapsulating the soothing tones of Ella Fitzgerald in quieter moments, before coming to the fore with a husky Amy Winehouse enthused soul rawness during earnest choruses. This captivating vocal dexterity interweaves around Jimi Hendrix Experience aping palm muted chords and vibrato laden solo mash-ups as the track develops, before an energetic hip shaking climax, which matched Armitt’s pirouetting dance moves on stage.

The national radio aired ‘Sisters’ was the standout moment of the evening in its blues drenched tale of sibling detachment. A steady bassline introduced the choppy rattle of the guitar as Armitt’s progressively powerful yet honeyed vocals depict fascinatingly haunting sentiments lyrically, most notably in the biting post-chorus breakdown lines “When I grew up I changed, oh but you remained the same”.Laura Lee Photography Mama Moonshine (1 of 1)-25

The up-tempo ‘Love Fool’ arrived mid-set as further validation of the band’s ability to shift seamlessly between genres. A rhythmic funk groove provided the head nodding backing melody to which Armitt confessed romantic adoration, creating an infectious slice of contemporary soul.

Little Man’ provided a five-minute plus brooding closer as proof, if any was needed, that this is a talented group of musicians capable of amalgamating a myriad of musical influences to conjure thrilling fluctuations in tempo and attitude. A decidedly blues inspired guitar hook introduced the psychedelic depiction of a sleazy bar scene where the female protagonist desires contemplative serenity in the face of an overly persistent stranger.  A rapid-fire bridge encompassed pounding drums and quickening basslines combined with frantic guitar strums, until the audience were lulled smoothly back into a blues canter, complete with rotating drumstick interludes: an effervescent visual and vocal performance alongside an ever flexible instrumental backing which kept onlookers’ interest at fever pitch.

Further recordings to date include the lulling Metallica ‘Fade to Black’ and Red Hot Chilli Peppers inspired ‘City Living’, featuring intricate guitar and bass work to the relatable lyrical notions of falling in love with city life, while imminent release of track ‘I Belong To No One’ indicates an increasingly sizeable fusion of cross genre sounds.

Mama Moonshine are set to play The Monarch in Camden on April 10th, followed by Troy Bar in Shoreditch a week later, and Hackney Attic in London on May 1st. Further live dates are to be announced for the summer for potential fans to divulge in a bubble of pacifying funk and blues beats.


Jamie Boyd