It’s been 20 years since the Big Sky Mudflaps released an album, though the band has been playing together since 1975 and only taken a one-month hiatus. Home Base is a tight collection of standards and originals that shows off the band’s capacity to play swing, jazz, jump blues, Brazilian bossa nova, Cuban cha cha and straight-up rock. The cover of Barbara George’s “I Know,” is fantastic, and it’s fun to hear “Minnie the Moocher’s Wedding Day,” a sequel to the other popular Cab Calloway song. It really speaks to the Mudflaps’ abilities that they can turn Bob Dylan’s honky-tonkin’ “Watching the River Flow” into something that feels naturally in the jazz realm. And also that bassist Beth Lo can add lyrics to Herbie Hancock’s instrumental, “Cantaloupe Island,” and elevate the song.
The Mudflaps experienced some success in the 1980s: two appearances on the Today show, regular guest spots on Prairie Home Companion and glowing write-ups in publications such as the New York Times and Village Voice. I grew up listening to them peripherally at all the Missoula festivals my parents took me to, but they weren’t punk enough for me back then. I’m glad they stuck around long enough for me to broaden my tastes and figure out what a wickedly talented group they are.
The Big Sky Mudflaps play an album release show at Plonk Sat., Jan. 20, at 7:30 PM. Free.