I’m not the first writer to cover this Allenhurst, New Jersey, artist; hell I’m probably not even in the top five, but there’s usually a method to my madness which is based around waiting and watching. Straight out of the gate Quincy Mumford’s big buzz seemed to set him up as the ideal candidate to relieve the local music scene of its overdone Americana and self-imposed folk icon burdens. I’ve seen him perform at The Stone Pony, selling out the place and matching the Status Green draw power most can’t touch. But that alone doesn’t mean you’re in line for the crown, and you need to have something to keep bringing them around.
Mumford seems to have that down pat. His laidback, small town image is for real and he freely admits his passion for his home turf in several of his songs. He’s a surfer, a skater and someone who cares about his environment to the point of donating his playing time to all kinds of causes. But he’s also well aware of his popularity and is no small town slouch when it comes to ranking high on the scene meter. He has had at least three Asbury Music Award nominations and/or wins, a coveted place in WBJB 90.5 The Night’s Emerging Artists Concert Series, the #11 spot on 90.5 The Night’s “Top 90 Albums Released in 2008,” and entry at #103 on the “Top 200 Songs on Non-Commercial Triple A Radio” chart.
His writing is a collective of many styles and influences, all swimming valiantly against the conscientious stream of pudding pop culture. As a young artist, it’s a right of passage to cull and collect, looking for your true sound and approaching it from every possible angle to grab what you need from the journey. From what I’ve been seeing and hearing, he’s pretty close to something solid with his last CD, South Edgemere. While it’s not brand new, I took a curious listen to see what makes this New Jersey artist tick.
Right away I noticed that South Edgemere has some good continuity on it. From reggae to light funk and bluesy tinged pop jazz, Mumford does his thing spreading smooth and toned vocals while maintaining arrangement clarity throughout. In other words, the songs all fit with one another.
Songs like “Now That I Met You” bounce along breezy and light, utilizing simple progressions that make way for Mumford’s signature mellow yellow vocals. Mid-ranged and whisper smooth, he has no problem besting his soft rock indie idols here. Choruses are fairly strong, demonstrating a good set of compositional smarts.
I thought “Can’t Break Free” was going to be yet another attempt at white boy Yellowman cloning but it was a pleasant surprise. Mumford demonstrates construction savvy with this tune, turning left just when you think he’s going over the cliff. Choruses are unique, funky and genuinely addictive, pulling this tune out of mediocre territory and leaving me feeling more than happy that I took the time to listen. Fender guitars, drums and bass bring back memories of Elvis Costello and the Attractions without stepping on any toes.
“Lifted” is the focus of the disc here, and I really enjoyed its cool accompanying video directed by brother Kyle Mumford. Featuring hot girls, booze, puppets, flannel shirts, and lots and lots of guitars, the fun-filled family vibe pretty much lays the groundwork for which Mumford has become known. Lifted uses a catchy sweep arpeggio riff that gets played by the guitars, keys and bass and ends up being the hook into the groovy chorus perfectly. This is the chorus that could go double or triple and I wouldn’t have a problem with it—nice atmospheric organ/Rhodes chops as well—guitars, hang-tight dynamic and jumping in where they need to be and framing Mumford’s vocal performance like a champ. This is a popular song and it wouldn’t surprise me if radio were high on it.
“The Waiting Feeling” is another commercial-oriented pop number with overtones of Matchbox 20’s “Real World” coming to mind. The stark, crisp production of Jon Leidersdorf comes through aces high on this tune, giving tons of performance elbow room and allowing everyone to shine. The backing vocals of Cara Salimando are pure honey to the bee on this track, mixing perfectly with Quincy’s melodic singing sensibilities.
One of my favorite songs on the disk, “Pots And Pans,” hits the listener with a 1990s alternative fun feel. Part upstate New York organic and part Sugar Ray, its Bobby James (Taxi Theme) Fender Rhodes vibe sprinkles dusty trills down over orbital organs, tight drums and smooth patterned bass. Guitars stay back and in check, wah riffs crawl into the light before falling back and doing their supportive job ala Curtis Mayfield or Shugie Otis. While this might be considered an album cut, it’s one of the highlights here and it demonstrates the reason Mumford and crew draw people into their universe, namely their ability to make magic happen through signature and dynamic simplicity.
I read in Quincy’s bio that “Helmet Man” was written about an old dude in Quincy’s neighborhood that rides around all day on his bike. I wonder if the guy knows he has his own song? Do you stop him on the street and hand him a CD saying, “Yo, I wrote a song about your off-kilter behavior, what do you think?” But in all seriousness, this tune rolls in what Quincy himself describes as, “colorful cuts of unassuming life.” An interesting song that is filled with simple acoustic guitar kicking off Mumford’s hush-toned vocals as he explains how cool this crazy guy is. Set up is good and when the band comes in with its half-time serenade, drums push and keyboard magic by Karlee Bloomfield peddles this straight down the bike path to atmospheric bliss.
“Simple” comes in and gets right to work focusing the band on Mumford’s lyrical foresight with scary modern day applicable lines like, “Do we really need to drill in untouched land? Look at all this beauty, should it be killed by man?” Talk about hitting the nail on the head, right BP? Drumstick rim clicks a la The Police rig this up with chimed guitars that color the light funk tone as piano tremolos the background. “Mind In The Sky” is also a cool jazzy tune filled with agreeable jazzy chord voicings and smart guitar work. Its laid back minor feel is bluer than blue. I like it a lot.
Quincy Mumford has a rich and varied future ahead of him. His combination of compositional experimentation and steadfast refusal to believe the local scene hype shows savvy and his writing looks to be top notch. I’d like to hear him get a little crazier on future discs, not mentally unbalanced, just emotionally charged to the point of working his vocals in a different register or feel. It’s more one-dimensional than anything else right now, and I feel he has so much more to offer than comparisons to Jack Johnson. As I said before, he’s on a journey, and for an artist that wants success, it never ends. Catch Quincy Mumford live on June 19 at The Sugershack at 23 Bay Avenue, Highlands, NJ 07732 and check out the rest of his news at quincymumford.com.