11/6/18

Mink's Miracle Medicine is Melissa Wright's Voice!


Mink’s Miracle Medicine, House of Candles; Pyramid Theories



Mink’s Miracle Medicine (M3) is the unlikely Harper’s Ferry-based duo of Melissa Wright and Daniel Zezeski, unlikely because it’s a pairing of a guitarist and a drummer—not your usual touring ensemble. M3’s music gets labeled folk rock, folk, country, punk, and indie. If you asked me which one, I’d just say “yes” and make sure to add retro to the list. But before I go any further, let me tell you that if you’ve not heard Melissa Wright, you are missing one of the great young singers of our time.

Mink’s Miracle Medicine—the name derives from a patent medicine—has two EPs to date. House of Candles was released in 2017, and we can hear that this duo hit the ground running. Wright, whom some might know from her work with the Bumper Jacksons, might just be Patsy Cline’s lost granddaughter. “The Nashville Song” is a cut-the-glitz-and-bring-on-the-tears country song about a young woman who dreams of being an Opry star and sets out for Nashville with just one dress, pocket change, and the “car her daddy gave her just for being born.” That won’t go well, but Ms Wright sings the hell out of this song. If you want another weepy, try “Somebody Else By Your Name.” The title says it all, and it even has a walking bass line. Wright’s robust voice makes even a potentially corny/old school country breakup song like “I’m Keeping Your Shirt” sound as if there’s a rip in the time continuum and the late 1950s walked in. “Graves Street” is another in the way-back vein—back before the Grand Ole Opry got slicker than a flattop haircut.

Their new album, Pyramid Theories, is equally wonderful, though it has a slightly different feel. As well it might, given its odd genesis. The duo’s van broke down in Pittsburgh and stranded them for a few days. The road often induces conversations that are more riff than structure, and being stuck with nothing but time on your hands ratchets the weirdness bolt. The title track began in discussions of Erich von Daniken’s aliens-built-the-pyramids theory, ventured into Roman architecture, and mutated into a quasi-hippie folk rock/country song about concentric time. Huh? Give it a listen. Some critics have compared M3 to Fleetwood Mac, a parallel I think is a stretch, but I can sort of hear it in Matt Schmelfenig’s fuzzy bass, a faintly 80s’ melody, and the way in which the vocals sometimes break into a rapid 1-2-3-4 staccato. “Page of Me” returns to more C &W themes, this one a relationship on the cusp of disintegration and the clarity that comes when “… I understand I’ve got to write my own damn book.” You might hear echoes of Jackson Brown in the folk rock “Now I Understand the Blues,” though it has another great country line: “I only need myself/When I’m crying alone in my bedroom.” And despite the fact that some hipsters claim M3 mines 90s grrl groups, I hear the ‘40s and ‘50s in “Born Again,” which has the out-on-the-trail riffs—but not the melody—of an old Roy Rogers chestnut. By the way, the song has nothing to do with evangelical preaching; it’s about trying to find a place so remote you reset and reinvent. Mink’s Miracle Medicine delights in keeping us on our toes and confounding categories.  ★★★★★

Rob Weir
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