Album Review: Mean Old Fireman and The Cruel Engineers
Updated: May 31
Artist: Mean Old Fireman and The Cruel Engineers
Album: Dumpster Fire Release 2021
Let me start by saying great name for a band! This eight song set is chock full of slippery, gutsy blues. If you like your blues drenched in greasy slide guitar you will enjoy this record.
I found the production interesting...in a good way. The drums seem to have been recorded with a modern approach while the band is playing quite traditionally, creating a pop and fatness that isn't often heard on records of this nature. There are a few tracks with very strong horn parts that really add quite a bit to the overall drive.
It is a well balanced mix of acoustic and electric guitars throughout. The slide guitar playing is relaxed. No acrobatics, just well played and tasteful. If you are looking for a modern stunt guitarist, this isn't the record for you. However, if you are looking for maturity, taste and great tone, this has all three to spare.
A standout track is "Cold Women With Warm Hearts". Besides a great title, it's a driving straight ahead shuffle with a catchy chorus, horn hits and interesting solos that get to the point and say nothing more than what needs to be said in order to deliver the simple truth that lies within well played blues music.
I also really enjoyed "Got No Spoons". To put it simply, just fantastic guitar playing laid over a deep pocketed band. At 3:55 there is a slide lick that displays the significant chops in this man's arsenal. The kind of chops that Johnny Winter would occasionally flaunt in his stint with the Muddy Waters band in the late 70's. Just a glimpse of the possibilities, to then duck back into the mix of a solid blues outfit.
My favorite song is "Outrun The Blues". It reminds me a bit of Clapton"s version of the Robert Johnson classic "They're Red Hot". This one flirts with the country side of the blues that was prevalent before the Chicago scene plugged in and changed the world. It features a fantastic rolling piano solo, a very bouncy sax solo and a world class country flavored slide guitar solo that sounds like it would be as comfortable in Memphis as it would be in Nashville.
The band as a whole is quite solid and confidently struts through the songs with a brazen full sound. An overall good listen with fantastic musicianship. I found the instrumental passes of the album to be a cut above the typical blues band. I enjoyed the drive of the horns and rhythm section, while the solos gracefully added lots of color to the mix. If you are a fan of slide guitar check this record out.
Check Out This Great Interview as well ! • Tell us the brief history of your band or musical career.
Mean Old Fireman really started as some recordings for “portfolio” of my slide playing. Those sessions turned into the album “Box 1”. The whole thing grew legs and started walking.
• Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Both my parents were musicians, so they’re at the top of the list. Early on, Duane Allman, Ry Cooder and Lowell George really got me interested in Slide. More recently, Sonny Landreth really continues to inspire me.
• What album has had the greatest impact on your life as a musician?
Little Feat’s “Waiting for Columbus”.
• What song do you remember most from your childhood?
“Key to the Highway” from Layla. The first time I heard Duane’s solo, I knew I wanted to get that kind of tone and expression,
• What’s your favorite accomplishment as a musician thus far?
I was in a local blues rock band playing New England clubs, mostly. We got a concert gig opening for Matt “Guitar” Murphy. It was a packed house and nobody was there to hear us. We were getting much response on the first few songs. We slowed it down and lit into howling version of “Stormy Monday” and the place erupted. We had the crowd’s attention for the rest of the set. As I was packing up, Matt came over, shook my hand and with a mile wide smile of his he said “Man! I haven’t heard anyone play the blues like that in a while.”
• What's the best piece of advice another musician ever gave you?
Robben Ford told me “Listen to everything, but be true to yourself.”
• What inspires you to write the music you write? What made you want to play the instrument you play?
Lots of things inspire my writing (although, at the moment, not enough). Songs like “Tour Three” and “Got no Spoons” were inspired by people and situations I ran into while working as a firefighter, for example I play slide because I love the expressive possibilities of it. I had been in a bit of a rut with it and then I heard this incredible player from France, Marc Athlan. I realized there was so much more that could be done.
• How does your latest album differ from any of your others in the past? Do you feel like you are continuing to grow musically?
My first album, Box 1, was very diverse, stylistically. I’m very proud of what’s on there, it just plays more like a compilation than an actual album. Dumpster Fire is a lot more cohesive. While it’s mostly Blues Rock, there is plenty of diversity within that genre.
• If you could change anything about the music industry today, what would it be?
Well, there are a lot of things I don’t like about the music industry. They aren’t going to change, as much as I might want them to. The digital world has made music very accessible, but at a huge cost to the artist. You have to focus on the upside, that there is pent up demand for live shows.
• What are your biggest obstacles as a musician?
I am my biggest obstacle. Getting my self to sit down and write, or work on promotion or even work on new material instead of just noodling around on the same old stuff takes more motivation than it probably should.
• What strengths do you have that you believe make you a great musician?
I don’t consider myself a great musician. Next question?
• What do you think about online music sharing? Do you ever give your music away for free? Why?
Given the current monetization model, streaming services are about one step away from giving it away.
• Describe your creative process when you write new music.
Instrumental pieces just kinda come out while I’m playing. Sometimes all at once, sometimes over time. When it comes to songs, I usually get a line or a concept in my head and then build off of that. “Got no Spoons” is a great example. I was at work (Firefighter/Paramedic) and we got a call for an opioid overdose at about 3 in the morning. We woke the kid up with Narcan and his mother said “Thank you for saving my son”. My reply was “We didn’t save him ma’am, We only kept him alive.”
• Other than being a musician, what was your dream job growing up? Are you currently in that same field today?
I always wanted to be a firefighter. After 20 years, I “retired” in January. I say “retired” because I’m working more than ever with an ambulance company, but not on the trucks My hat’s off to those out there working the street.
• Give us some advice for new musicians just starting out in the industry.
It’s a whole new world. There are opportunities that we couldn’t have dreamed of even 10 years ago. Keep your eyes and ears open!
• Anything you would like to share, from new merch to upcoming shows/tours or songs/albums?
We’re in the process of getting back to live shows, so stay tuned. Our third album is about half complete, once the dust settles a little, I’m hoping to have that out later this year.
• Are you available for private parties? If so, how would someone contact you about booking?
We love to play live! If we can make it work, we will. The Contact form on www.meanoldfireman.com or email@example.com.
• What's next for your band?
We’re just looking forward to getting back to playing live again.