The Hippo


May 28, 2020








Courtesy photo.

Muddy Ruckus

When: Thursday, March 26, 9 p.m.
Where: 7th Settlement Brewery, 47 Washington St., Dover
More: and

Well traveled
The melting pot music of Muddy Ruckus

By Michael Witthaus

Many tributaries meet on the eponymous debut album from Muddy Ruckus. From the swamp rock fused to zoot suit swing in kickoff track “Crawl on the Ceiling” to the conjured New Orleans second line near the end of “Bag of Bones,” it’s a rich landscape. There are traces of Delta blues, rustic folk and punk-infused gypsy jazz.

This eclectic mix reflects the restless spirit of Ryan Flaherty, the creative force of Muddy Ruckus. At his first chance, the inveterate Kerouac fan set out on a personal odyssey that stopped in California, the Grand Canyon, Tennessee, Europe and eventually New England.
“I grew up in the Midwest. A lot of people don’t ever leave, and I wasn’t going to be one of them,” Flaherty said in a recent phone interview. “Around 21, I went: this is it. I’m gonna jump on a Greyhound bus and go.”
Exposed to blues and folk on the West Coast, Flaherty picked up his first guitar and drifted into songwriting. 
“I wanted to write books, but music was a vehicle to get my poetry out there,” he said. 
During a five-month European sojourn, he happened upon a gypsy family playing together on a street in Prague. 
“My jaw dropped. I plopped right down. … I didn’t want to leave,” he recalled. “As soon as I could, I got everything I could from the Internet about that music.”
The transformative moment added Django Reinhardt to a list of heroes that included Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. It also planted the spark that led Flaherty north in the mid-2000s to play guitar with New Hampshire-based gypsy jazz stalwarts Ameranouche.
So many inputs had an ADD effect on him as a musician, however. 
“I’ll listen to a certain genre for a while and switch over,” he said. “When I’m in those phases my songwriting reflects that. It was a struggle to tie it all together.”
Then he began singing with Erika Stahl, and Muddy Ruckus was born.
When the two met in 2013, Stahl wasn’t a performer but a fan at his shows. After five years with Ameranouche, Flaherty was finding himself as a solo artist. One night while they hung out together, Stahl joined in on one of his songs. 
“I thought, this person has a great voice,” he said. “I asked if she ever sang live, and she said, ‘No, no, I can’t do that.’”
But a few days later, with help from the audience, he goaded a red-faced Stahl into joining him on stage. 
“It went really well, and I convinced her to do it more,” said Flaherty. “Slowly but surely, she performed with me until it became full time.”
In a strange way, Stahl’s lack of musical background gave Muddy Ruckus its mojo, said Flaherty. 
“Erika wasn’t seasoned … but had a lot of time to spend, which allowed me to really focus on the sound, especially when she was singing with me. She wasn’t all over the place, and it made me buckle down towards wanting direction.”
The formula is working. Über-hip Daytrotter Studios invited them to record not one but two sessions, and this year they’re up for a New England Music Award for Best Band in Maine. The live music curator at 7th Settlement Brewery sought them out for a residency, which continues March 26.
Flaherty has plenty of praise for the Dover microbrewery. 
“It’s awesome, the people are nice and welcoming, there are local brews, a farm to table menu with food that’s out of this world,” he said. “A great vibe; I can’t imagine a better place for Muddy Ruckus to play.” 
As seen in the March 19, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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