SARANAC LAKE - The mud-riding scenes in the Mallett Brothers Band's new video are pretty stupefying - although whether you'll be left stunned with joy, horror or both is up to you.
In a clearing in the woods, guys fill a big patch of tilled earth with enough water to make a huge mess, and then spend the rest of the video riding trucks and ATVs through it while the band rips through "A Little Bit of Mud," a blazing new rocker set to go on an album they're now recording in their hometown of Portland, Maine.
"I'm headin' out in the woods to check out my pot, with the top down, baby, playing ZZ Top."
From left: Wally Wenzel, Nate Soule, Brian Higgins, Nick Leen, Will Mallett, Luke Mallett
(Photo — Peter Jensen Bissell)
That's a line from one verse, delivered at axle-snapping speed in between howling guitar solos. Here's another:
"No blacktop, baby, no cell phone towers, just four-hundred-fifty horses of power. No GPS, don't need a map, just a one-way trail and a case of Pabst."
By now, you probably know whether you want to go see this band Friday night at the Waterhole. It may or may not change your mind to know that the video also shows multi-instrumentalist Wally Wenzel play a slide guitar solo with a beer bottle - not a bottleneck but the whole bottle - and then chug the beer.
It's a far cry from the folky music of David Mallett, the father of band brothers Will and Luke Mallett, who's famous for his gentle "Garden Song" ("Inch by inch and row by row ..."). Actually, though, his sons' band started out more acoustic when it formed in 2009, despite Luke's history in hip-hop and hardcore groups.
"It has morphed into kind of a rock 'n' roll band, but it still has kind of a wooden feel to it," Nate Soule - lead guitarist, manager and sometime recording engineer - told the Enterprise in a recent phone interview. "Our drummer has a metal-punk background. Originally, we asked him to be in the band, and he said, 'I don't play country.'
"It's all country-rock/Americana, I guess, with hints of folk and bluegrass in there, too. ... We're kind of describing it as if punk, ZZ Top, Steve Earle and Waylon Jennings had a baby."
In the tour van, what gets played the most is outlaw country: Jennings, Willie Nelson, Earle, Ryan Bingham and Hank Williams I and III - "not much of the second one," Soule said.
They're on the road a whole lot, too; Soule said they've played about 150 shows in the past year. They've also racked up accolades and local-favorite awards in Maine and Boston, and they're trying to expand their turf, including ventures not just to New York but to Tennessee and Kentucky - and, they hope, a trip to the South by Southwest music extravagaza in Austin, Texas, in March.
They often pair up for double-bill gigs with like-minded bands like Waylon Speed and Eastbound Jesus, with whom they'll share the stage here Friday.
They previously played at the Waterhole on Sept. 15.
"That room is a lot of fun," Soule said. "It reminds us of home because it's so cold."
In the summers they supplement the bar and club gigs with festivals. This summer, Soule made a point of noting, they opened for 38 Special at a festival in Brockport, Maine.
"Donnie Van Zant, after our set he came out of his van and said, 'You guys were burnin'!" Soule said. In case you don't know, Van Zant, brother of Lynyrd Skynyrd frontmen Ronnie and Johnny Van Zant, is Southern rock royalty.
Meanwhile, the posters for the Mallett Brothers-Eastbound Jesus show say, "Support Northern rock."
"What is Northern rock?" you might ask. Perhaps it's more wool-quilted-plaid-clad than its Southern cousin, more hard rock than blues, more snowmobile roadhouse than moonshine still.
Whatever it is, bar owners tend to like it, Soule said.
"People like to drink at our shows," he said. "When people come to our shows, they kind of like to drink whiskey."