Muddy Ruckus
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Muddy Ruckus

Portland, Maine, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Portland, Maine, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Duo Rock Americana




"Darkly Inventive Americana"

Darkly Inventive Americana

Portland, Maine trio Muddy Ruckus call their music “stomp and swing punk.” They’re bringing their uneasy guy/girl harmonies and unique blend of string-band swing, Tom Waits-inspired circus rock and oldtimey blues to the small room at the Rockwood on Sept 27 at 9 PM. They’ve also got a stylistically diverse, carnivalesque debut album streaming at Bandcamp.

The opening track, Crawl on the Ceiling sets the tone, a brisk noir swing romp fueled by Brian Durkin’s steady bass pulse, Erika Stahl’s torchy vocal harmonies enhancing the darkly phantasmagorical ambience. The band work their way up from skeletal to anthemic on Come with Us, lowlit by Marc Chillemi’s torchy muted trumpet. Ruby Red rises from a doomed, slow-burning electrified minor-key blues groove to a frantic sprint to the finish line, frontman/guitarist Ryan Flaherty channeling pure desperation with an unhinged solo.

Mother Mud blends oldschool 60s soul with a string band sound from forty years previously, driven by Phil Bloch’s violin. The scampering swing shuffle Bulldozer will resonate with anyone who can’t wait to get out of the “shitty town” where they grew up, as Flaherty puts it. “I don’t need your family money or drugs, ’cause I’m high on all the lies I told myself as I grew up,” he drawls sarcastically.

Butterfly Bullets adds a little cynical hip-hop edge to Waits-ish noir blues. Worse Things mashes up lazy indie rock and oldtime blues: it’s a kiss-off to an evil boss and dayjob drudgery in general. “There’s no romance that compares to the rug that’s pulled out from under your prayers,” Flaherty insists.

Convalescent Angel builds from creepy oldtime gospel ambience to anthemic menace. Infinite Repair returns to the noir swing, with a neat, flatpicked guitar solo that’s part Appalachian, part Romany jazz. Lightning, a slow waltz, mines an oldtime fire-and-brimstone vernacular anchored by Durkin’s stygian bowing. Stahl sings Bag of Bones, a dancing, dixieland-flavored swing tune. The album’s final track, On and On, is a loping, hypnotic rock nocturne: thematically, it’s out of place, but it’s not bad. - New York Music Daily

"Peep This: Muddy Ruckus “Chasm”"

From day 1 Muddy Ruckus‘s songs have had a driving force behind them. An electric energy that moves, sways, dances, pushes, pulls and punches you straight in the gut. A punch that you end up thanking duo Ryan Flaherty and Erika Stahl for because it leaves you feeling that vibe and emotion for a long while. Their songs impart a groove into the air surrounding them and the latest single from the Portland roots rockers delivers on that sentiment again.

“Chasm” has a bit more of a grunge than roots feel to it. Flaherty’s guitar runs caked in rust and grime in a way that feels like a mid 90s flannel clad throwback. But the heaviness soon subsides and each note takes on a more solemn and ringing sensation as the din fades out and the overdrive pedal is switched off for a spell. The two artists have a way about them and crafting that feeling, a sense of relief from the harder hitting parts of their songs that makes those portions hit even harder and ring deeper in your chest. A balance.

Their voices spinning upwards together as a reverberating pool of sound launches back into that overdriving guitar riff. A roller coaster, a wave. A journey that they take a listener through in their songs.

The video was filmed by our old pal and the colossally talented J. Elon Goodman. A video that is equally as artistic as the song itself and dovetails brilliantly with the vibe of the track. Check it out below. - Red Line Roots

"Muddy Ruckus Drop Americana Barnburner with 'Pretty Bones'"

Well goddamn. It’s rare that a band releases a burner for their sophomore album, the kind you listen to the entire way through and then hit repeat.

Yet Portland, Maine duo Muddy Ruckus do just that with Pretty Bones, the follow up to their 2014 self-titled debut. The 12- track LP is loaded with summer anthems that elicit feelings of invincibility and implore innate hip shimmying.

Ryan Flaherty and Erika Stahl, who make up Muddy Ruckus and are also partners in life, are legit dance hall crashers. They shroud each track in versatile guitar and edgy percussion from the outset. The album is a beautiful paradox, with a sound reminiscent of foot-stomping delta dance parties that weave in lyrics that are both optimistic and darkly introspective times. The jive tune “Make Things Right” is a perfect example with its swing guitar and brooding lyrics: We Fight and fight and we always lose sight/ I am going to hell with you tonight/This poetry I have inside for you is killing me.

Flaherty is throaty and raw on main vocals during songs that feel confessional, like “Goodness Knows,” I’m a better man than you think I am/ Well I almost lost my soul just about a year ago, it fucked me up real bad…What you do when your alone and how do you hide your shame? Stahl is complete percussive knockout from the start adding force with her relentless pulsating drum peals.

The pair also brings Americana ditties like “Die For You” to an apex with their intense, passionate vocal rounds Die for you/ Die for you/ Die for you, crescendoing guitar and steady subtle drumbeat.

Flaherty and Stahl’s work is distinctive in that the two never overshadow, but rather consistently compliment one another. Even when Flaherty might be the obvious lead on lyrics or he is playing strong, electrified chord progressions on the guitar, listeners can’t help but note the steady, nuanced heartbeat of Stahl’s suitcase drumkit that is the backbone of all of Muddy Ruckus’ songs. It is this that makes it impossible to think of a Muddy Ruckus that could exist without the twosome. - Glide Magazine

"Muddy Ruckus: Creating Communal Power"

Six minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve, I walked into a small tunnel-shaped bar near my house called Toad. At the opposite end of the room, through a gyrating screen of drunkards, I caught a glimpse of a stomping boot on stage. The place was stockpiled with energy – stoned souls bounced back and forth, men and women slid along the dark floor, and feet pounded with a brash beat that shook the bar-top. Ryan Flaherty, dripping sweat in a thick pair of overalls, vigorously strummed the guitar and belted out bluesy notes; Erika Stahl sat tall and mighty at her drum-kit – mother of rhythm – striking the snare with ferocity and uplifting rich dual harmonies. “Who is this band?” I asked around until a small older woman passing out sparkling party hats told me: “Muddy Ruckus!” She handed me a hat and I danced hard through midnight, ultimately thankful that these two spirits decided to dwell at my local watering hole.

Later that week, I met Flaherty and Stahl at Atwood’s about a mile down the road from Toad; they were getting ready to play another late-night stage. In lieu of 2017 and the new year, the three of us discussed Muddy Ruckus’ current mindset and their attempts at beginning a new album, as well as their history as a band, and accolades they received in 2016.

“So, how did you two originally meet?”

As we sat at the bar – Flaherty wearing the same pair of overalls – he described a show that he was playing in Portland, Maine in 2013. He looked out over the audience and caught a glimpse of a beautiful woman dancing to his tunes. He pulled her up on stage and ever since then, Stahl and Flaherty have been lovers. Like some unearthly sign, Stahl came into Flaherty life when his band was pretty much over; “I was ready to quit the scene.” Flaherty reflected on that time and remembers how much he was drawn to Stahl’s own musical talent. “I loved her voice; she pretty much saved my music career.” Finding some kind of hope for a new start, or possibly a rare strike of inspiration, Flaherty and Stahl became Muddy Ruckus.

Growing up, Stahl’s mother was a music teacher. She told me about all the instruments lying around her house as a kid as her mother’s pupils would come to the house for lessons. However, Stahl is a self-taught drummer. She bought her first drum-kit from a pawn shop when she was a teenager and has kept with it since. When Flaherty was a kid in rural Illinois, he would listen to his next door neighbor playing guitar through the open window and became infatuated with the sound. Later on, he went and saw the Pixies play live – his first concert – and afterwards knew he wanted to be a musician. This may be an underlying reason that Muddy Ruckus’ bluegrass beginnings have moved toward highly-expressive rock with a build-up that keeps you waiting.

When I asked Muddy Ruckus how they would describe their sound Flaherty quickly said, “We are a rock and roll duo basically…folk morphed into rock.”

“Has Maine, where you two live now, influenced your sound?” I asked.

“Inspiration wise, there’s a lot of bluegrass stuff and like my upbringing in Illinois, I have to always look elsewhere for inspiration.” Flaherty and Stahl live in the sleepy city of Auburn and have just recently started messing around with home recording. For Muddy Ruckus, inspirational now comes in the form of the blues. Flaherty has been blasting R.L. Burnside and seems dedicated to infusing his folk-roots with an electric spark. To add a little bite, Flaherty attached a suitcase kick-drum to Stahl’s kit before their most recent album; “I had a snare drum and he gave me a suitcase and said, ‘hell yeah.”

Since 2014, Muddy Ruckus have churned out two full-length albums. Their first, a self-titled mix of fiddle-based, folky swing music, escalated into their most recent release, Pretty Bones, which has led to a more thoughtful, stripped-down listening experience; there is barely any violin, less bass, and it showcases Flaherty and Stahl’s raw sonic chemistry – the differences between both records is astounding. I asked about the first album, but Flaherty simply described it as “a mess” and moved on. “Up until the last year and a half I didn’t know where I was going with our music,” he added. “I’m anxious and eager to get this sound out now.” Here, he is referring to what you will now experience if you see Muddy Ruckus live, what drew me in so quickly as 2017 rolled in. Stahl on the drum-kit. Flaherty on guitar. Just dual harmonies, foot-stomping, a killer backbeat and gritty blues riffs. When listening to their first album now, I understand why Flaherty can hardly look back. It’s as if his raspy vocals were too big for it, too rock & roll. Since then, they have shed their skin allowing hints of this new sound to barge through Pretty Bones, a well-structured, lyrically-inviting ode to beauty in the face of struggle – “It’s so beautiful to be alive / And I don’t know how to make it right!” sings Flaherty on the opening track.

The record itself has helped Muddy Ruckus determine who they are and what they want their sound to be, as both Flaherty and Stahl will say, “It doesn’t represent where we are now.” In terms of the actual recording process, Muddy Ruckus was on tour when they were approached by a man named Anthony Gaudi: “We met a dude who wanted to record us for free, which was awesome…we just went for it, even though we needed like ten more songs.” Because they were confused on what their sound was, they filled the space with unreleased songs that Flaherty had written over the previous few years. With Stahl’s direction and help, they reimagined the songs for the album, creating a mix of catchy melodies and heartbreaking moments. Pretty Bones was well-reviewed after it came out this past June. The day after I talked with them, they informed me that their album was named “Album of the Year” in Boston’s Red Line Roots’ Big Reds Awards.

Flaherty had a restless, determined look in his eyes while we talked and Stahl looked ready to follow him through whatever burning gates they may come across. He is currently eager to start recording their new stuff, explaining to me that “It’s going to be lo-fi because it has to be (laughs).” Recording is expensive when you no longer have someone offering to record you free. However, lack of funds doesn’t seem to present too many problems because lo-fi is what Muddy Ruckus wants. They have cut all the other players from their band with the hope to express as much raw sensation as possible. Their philosophy behind the upcoming album is this: “How much we can squeeze out of both of us without more players.” Flaherty and Stahl hope to have at least a few songs recorded by the spring and will continue to tour throughout the country. I asked them what their current musical goals are and nationwide touring is high on their list. Instead of frequently traveling, though, Muddy Ruckus wants to focus on particular places for longer periods of time before they move on. They believe this will be a more effective way of spreading their sound to people. They told me that they love the freedom of touring and that on their last tour they stayed at a different fan’s house every single night. Their live performance is mesmerizing, and I know first-hand how impactful it can be on a first-time listener. However, after promoting Pretty Bones, they told me that they needed a month-long break to rest. In Flaherty’s words, “Burning out is real.” All he and Stahl are searching for is the ability to keep their music-careers new and fun, “to continue to keep writing…and to travel and have fresh experiences.”

As Muddy Ruckus took the stage, the dim room we were standing in began to fill up. Bar-dwellers crawled forward as the lights flickered and the set progressed. “Who gives a fuck what anyone thinks, let’s kill it,” said Flaherty earlier about he and Stahl’s pre-show mindsets – this was visible at Atwood’s as a hard, fuzzy soul-fire flushed out of Flaherty’s strings into the amp. Stahl’s suitcase kick-drum rattled and kept time as the two lovers shed light on their inner bond with each other and music. Before I got up to dance, I wrote one last thing in my journal – that the blues-rock raw power performance has been done, but goddamn, it’s what the soul reacts to. The heart sinks on the downbeat and you feel yourself fall just to be uplifted seconds later. This is what Muddy Ruckus has taken two albums to develop and they better keep going. - Red Line Roots

"Band's new album draws inspiration from Cape Ann"

The haunting tale of a famous shipwreck on Gloucester’s Norman’s Woe has become the inspiration for a new song by the award-winning rock duo Muddy Ruckus, which returns to Cape Ann this Friday.

The song is on its upcoming third album, “Bellows To Mend,” which will be released June 1. The duo, consisting of Ryan Flaherty and Erika Stahl, will perform some of these works at their show tomorrow night at The Rhumb Line in Gloucester.

“The songs were written over the last two years, soaked in recent hardships, revelations and road sick poetry — each song tying into the other,” Flaherty said in an artist statement. “One song is about a shipwreck that happened off the coast of Gloucester, and is obscurely connected to Mighty Mouse and a famous poet from Portland, Maine, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.”

In a 1944 episode of Mighty Mouse titled “Wreck of the Hesperus,” the story has a happy ending when the captain and his daughter are saved after being shipwrecked during a raging storm at sea, during which the captain tied his daughter to the ship’s mast to help her from being washed overboard.

“The ever-vigilant lighthouse keeper, Mighty Mouse, flies forth and comes to the rescue of the captain, his fair-maiden daughter, and the crew,” according to IMDb.

However, the Longfellow poem, published in 1842, has a more grizzly ending when the maiden’s frozen body is found ashore on a nearby beach by a Gloucester fisherman.

Flaherty, a longtime fan of the tiny animated superhero mouse, and bandmate Stahl will present many other musical tales of both happiness and pain, sharing the ups and downs of humanity, from broken relationships to death to new beginnings. The songs are diverse, including a love ballad disguised in the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and another titled “Restless Ryder” about the elusive nature of sleep.

“As you get older, you start to lose things including people,” Flaherty said. “When you are younger, it seems like everyone is going to live forever. About three years ago, one of my best friends passed away.”

But the constant of music in their lives is a bright spot.

“Working as full-time musicians has become a huge, beautiful struggle in my life,” said Flaherty. “This (new) album truly reflects the idea of not giving up, no matter what. It’s about hanging on, facing the danger and the risks ahead and slaying the dragons that lay before us. This record is dirty, real and gushing with heart.”

Flaherty, a lifelong performer, hails from Rock Island, Illinois, located on the muddy banks of the Mississippi River. He has made New England his home, but his journey to be a professional musician has taken him all over the country and Europe.

His first visit to Gloucester was more than a decade ago when he performed with a band out of New Hampshire at Captain Carlo’s. Much to his surprise, he found Whoopi Goldberg tending the bar that night. That was a time when there were frequent sightings of the star tending bar at the waterfront establishment (co-owned by her friend), which was known for its music scene. She served the band a round of Cokes.

Flaherty moved to New Hampshire at the age of 28 because of the musical opportunities, and later gravitated east to Portland, Maine, where he met his musical muse.

He returned to Gloucester many years later with his duo, Muddy Ruckus, after a Gloucester couple saw them perform at a Portland venue and asked if they would play at their pig roast.

“We ended up meeting a lot of people and developing relationships with people there, and it has become a second home for us,” he said. “Everyone is so welcoming. Besides playing a whole bunch in Gloucester over the years, it is a town we’ve truly come to love.”

Gloucester’s Ann Molloy, who has seen the group perform several times, is among the duo’s local connections.

“I love this band. I’ve seen them several times and they never disappoint,” she said. “They pack a lot of punch for two people.”

The duo is often asked about the origins of the band’s name.

“I was kind of searching for a name and I wanted it to reflect the style of music I was envisioning, and the word ‘mud’ kept coming back to me,” Flaherty said. “We all come from the earth, and mud is a metaphorical word for the earth. We humans cause a lot of ruckus, and the ‘ruckus’ is the sound of the earth, and it also reflects the music because it is very ‘ruckus,’ as well.” - Gloucester Times

"Raising A Muddy Ruckus"

At the start of this past summer, Portland-based band Muddy Ruckus dropped its latest record, “Pretty Bones.” Like the heat that existed in these parts atmospherically, “Pretty Bones” is a fiery set. It builds on their roots-driven self-titled debut from 2014, and adds an even more raucous flair to their brand of folk-laden duo-stomp rock. It’s music to move to. Guitarist Ryan Flaherty and percussionist Erika Stahl never let anything hang back, and “Pretty Bones” is testament to that exact hard-swinging drive.

“Our main goal was to record the record and finish it as a duo, playing most of the tracks as live as possible, so it would mirror our live performances,” voiced former Seacoast dweller Ryan Flaherty. “We wanted to make a record that sounds like what you see live at our shows with no extra instruments ... no bass, no bells and whistles; just raw, guitar, drums and vocals. I did stick a banjo in one of the tracks, but for the most part, it’s just Erika and I doing what we do live. We were eager to finish an album true to our current musical makeup so people could take us home with them after the shows.”

“What excites me is the honesty of the album,” he continued. “It’s just two people (life partners) playing their songs as they would at home or around the fire. I think we captured a lot of passion in the tracks, which is why people probably like it so much.”

And it’s not that they’ve cast their debut aside. It’s that it was an essential piece of the lineage from which they could pull inherent musical/recording lessons.

“One thing I took away from the first album is if you’re going to go into the studio, you should be ready and realistic,” said Flaherty. “Know your songs. Have the arrangements down, have a list of the songs ready to go. It actually allows for more creativity in the end. Don’t plan on organizing things as they go, unless you own the studio and have all the time in the world to do so. Be patient with your material, and when the time comes, hit the studio and remain true to what you have rehearsed and what you envision. Another thing I learned is you should only record with people that actually ‘really’ like your music.”

There are many highlights found within the 11 cuts that make up “Pretty Bones.” There’s equal parts impassioned beauty accented by rousing, porch-stompin’ grit.

One of the album’s mellower numbers (with no less flair) is “The Stone,” which hears Flaherty in the foreground exclaiming: “Trying to find my home is like trying to draw blood from a stone. Trying to overcome what can never be undone. Lord don’t ever say never, don’t ever say never, don’t ever say never.”

While it’s unclear what he’s really getting at, it can be interpreted (to some degree) by someone who has been following his musical career as it has unfolded (long before Muddy Ruckus) as a bit of an ode to finding your musical voice. And, it seems, as light at the end of the tunnel would have it, Muddy Ruckus is the culmination of that. A look back to look ahead. - Seacoast Media

"Album Review: Muddy Ruckus “Pretty Bones”"

Broke down, broke open, broke up, and plain-ole-flat broke—Muddy Ruckus wants you to dance in the ditch and and bless the blues that make you feel alive.

Hailing from Portland Maine, guitarist Ryan Flaherty and percussionist Erika Stahl that make up Muddy Ruckus have been performing since 2013, dropping their first self-titled disc in 2014. The pair pull from a range of styles—Roots, Blues, Southern Folk/Rock—and use their distinctive, keening harmonies to produce a sound that is fresh and homey, evident on their latest release “Pretty Bones.”

Everyone’s on the run from something or someone in the songs on “Pretty Bones.” But no one is running too far, or too fast, tethered to loves they can’t quit or lives that refuse to quit them. With walking bass-lines and foot-stomping blues riffs, the voices in these tunes relish their heartache and own the way love makes fools of us all. The single “Die For You” is a sweet lament for the one who’s hopelessly tethered to their lover: “Ain’t no lover in the world with a hole in their hand/That won’t die for you because it feels good to them.” A passion/obsession that yields the inevitable madness that we all simultaneously court and curse “Gonna jump in the river, gonna run through the woods/this lowdown living never did me no good.”

The title track, “Pretty Bones,” is the less anguished, but no less impassioned, side to the same coin. It has all the musical trappings of a fun front-porch jam with the lightest touches of Southern rock bass and guitar. It’s a straight-up-mama-come-on-back-home-and-save-me-from-myself tune that charms without losing any of the complicated grit that coats so many of the Muddy Ruckus’ songs: “I’ve been broke down on the road/without you by my side/I’ve been choking on the blues and those feelings just ain’t right… come back in pretty mama/deep inside this house of love/I can’t live here all alone/come back in pretty mama/and rest your pretty bones.”

Even the songs sketched in a darker palette are ones that make you want to hoot and clap in revivalist fashion, praising the reckless freedom that comes with self-destruction and dubious decisions. “Hard Stuff” lays down a blistering Texarcana-influenced guitar track for a story about giving into your worst impulses and turning the nuclear option on yourself because your vices have you pinned. The relentless, driving drums and frenetic guitar echo the narrator’s internal spinout: “push away those demons/but they dive back in me/and my wings are burning like a broke down engine/I’m an angel sinner /getting drunk because I miss her/time to move on to the hard stuff.” I’ll have what he’s having. “Goodness Knows” extends the craving for redemption and explores a relentless desire to show up as a better version of ourselves to the person who really matters, even if, as Flaherty sings it all folds in on itself in the end and you’re back where you started, alone trying to “hide your shame.”

“Pretty Bones” is not without its lighter touches, speaking to the duo’s range in being able to pull back the throttle musically while keeping the same kind of layered, thoughtful songwriting in play. “Stone” is a deceptively simple waltz wrapped in the kind of bass and guitar sound on rockabilly tunes of the 1950s, only softened to compliment Flaherty and Stahl’s lilting vocals that rise and fall with the rhythm. “Trying to find my home/feels like drawing blood from a stone,” the duo sing, building into an exquisitely doleful wail: “trying to overcome/what can never be undone/don’t ever say never say never say never.” It feels more like a prayer than a plea.

There’s a riotous joy threaded through the songs on this album even as they pick over loss, despair, loneliness, and longing. It’s the exhilaration that comes from knowing you might be busted up, but you’re still here, you’re still breathing, and there’s something still worth swinging for in this one, small life. Let the equally riotous and joyful sound of Muddy Ruckus remind you. - Red Line Roots

"A Voice Found: Muddy Ruckus"

By design, the opening three tracks of Muddy Ruckus’ self-titled debut are meant as an introduction.

But it might be more accurate to say that they’re a reintroduction – particularly for the Quad Cities. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Ryan Flaherty hails from these parts, and the album and a September 19 performance at Rozz-Tox will show what he’s been up to in the decade-plus since he left.

It’s been a winding path, both geographically and musically. He traveled extensively – with stops including the Grand Canyon, California, Tennessee, and Europe before settling in New England – “soaking up as much experience of life and in music as possible,” Flaherty said in a phone interview last week.

The blues of his 2002 solo album Dimestore Blues represented a starting point, a singer learning to play guitar. In Europe he was exposed to the gypsy jazz rooted in the music of Django Reinhardt, and “I got really sucked into that style for the last 10 years or so.”

He played in bands but returned to songwriting in the past few years, releasing several additional solo albums. That transition, he recalled, was facilitated by his playing: “I’m actually getting pretty good at guitar now. Maybe I should go back to my own music and start writing again.”

And last year, he chose the moniker Muddy Ruckus – a name that applies to his current trio (which features singer Erika Stahl and bassist Brian Durkin) but also to Flaherty by himself. “I wanted to come up with something that I could just do for the rest of my life,” he explained. “No matter who I played with – whether I’m solo or with a band – I could say, ‘This is Muddy Ruckus. I’m Muddy Ruckus.’”

The arrival of Muddy Ruckus, then, can be seen as an evolutionary marker – especially in the context of a debut album that feels fully formed.

It starts with rollicking gypsy jazz of “Crawl on the Ceiling,” an impossibly ebullient celebration that pairs its party energy with tight singing and musicianship. “Come with Us” – which Flaherty thought would kick off the album – follows with a longing made hypnotic by the vocal harmonies. And “Ruby Red” returns Flaherty to his blues origins before stomping all over them in a blistering rockabilly back end.

“I feel like those three elements are kind of weaved in and out of all my songs,” Flaherty said of Muddy Ruckus’ opening trio of tracks. “I feel like if you listen to those three songs, you can kind of get the gist of where the whole album is.”

The contributions of Flaherty’s bandmates are essential. The record is unimaginable without Stahl’s sweet singing, and Durkin’s bass combines with the guitarist’s percussive style to form a sturdy spine – and keeps up with some breakneck tempos. Fiddle, percussion, and pedal steel provide just the right amount of Americana augmentation and drive on more-straightforward songs, while the muted tension of “Convalescent Angel” exploding into jagged fragments suggests an experimental rock band – Tom Waits through Nine Inch Nails.

On “Worse Things,” busy, detailed acoustic guitar is contrasted with a low drone underneath, and in between are the vocals of Flaherty and Stahl, conveying simple wisdom and reassurance: “Well, there’s worse things than bein’ afraid / You could be trapped under all that you’ve made.”

As strong as the arrangements are, Flaherty’s mature songcraft and vocals shine brightest. “Bulldozer” initially chugs along as a cheerful kiss-off to an unhappy childhood: “I grew up poor on a dead-end street / Bad people, bad livin’, bad all around me” and “I didn’t care about water, food, money, or my drugs / I just knew I was escapin’ from that shitty place that I grew up.”

But Flaherty’s voice and lyrics bring additional dimensions to the song – a rapid-fire torrent of memories, regrets, and destruction delivered with casual precision, creating the impression of a narrator who’s too busy moving on to ever actually live his life.

Throughout the album, his singing has a rich, compelling artlessness, by which I mean that he’s perfected this slightly gruff, seemingly effortless and natural vocal style that likely requires a great deal of work – particularly given the volume of words he gives himself. This lends many songs an offhanded, nearly spontaneous charm, an in-the-moment vitality.

But if Muddy Ruckus plays as evidence that Flaherty has grown comfortable in a multifaceted musical identity, the singer/songwriter said he’s still searching: “I feel like I’m finding it more and more. I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to it.”

Muddy Ruckus will perform on Friday, September 19, at Rozz-Tox (2108 Third Avenue, Rock Island; The 8 p.m. all-ages show also features Steven M. Krug Jr., and cover is $5 to $10. - River Citie's Reader

"Opening Your Eyes: Muddy Ruckus Releases “Awakening Enkindled” EP"

In the time that I have known Ryan Flaherty and Erika Stahl one thing has been abundantly clear about the duo known as Muddy Ruckus: no matter what they are doing; be it performing on a stage, watching others make music or just giving you a hug to say hello; they put their whole hearts into it.

Sometimes what the heart feels, however, isn’t joy or jubilance or positivity. Its can be pain or frustration or anger. Flaherty has been justifiably upset with the current state of affairs within the country and to project those emotions and feelings he did what he knows how to do best, write about it and pour his heart into playing the songs that sprang forth from the turbulence that perpetuates our (now) every day lives. Of the record he says,”There is definitely more to these songs than usual and I worked on them for a long time. I started writing them back when all the pipeline stuff in North Dakota was happening. I was so upset about how they treated the Native Americans and protestors of Standing Rock…and the outcome.

He continues,”The second song… when I sing “I’ve been thinking about leaving town” that is referring to wanting to leave and go join the protestors in North Dakota.. and then “I keep singing the same empty song” meaning I’m not helping by sitting at home not doing anything. I need to go join the fight with my brothers and sisters.

Of the time between writing those first words in response to Standing Rock and the release of them today he says, “The second phase of writing both tunes happened after Trump was elected. I was again, so very upset and mad… and all that fake press shit and lies he kept spewing. The words definitely reflect that and the overall corrupt system. Last phase of writing, we were kind of playing them out at shows unfinished, not really sure where were going, then the tragedy in Charlottesville happened and that was it. These songs came full circle, for me at least, and totally made sense to me… I had to get them out. It’s done now. I’m lucky my friend volunteered to record them the other day.”

Ryan continues, ““Awakening Enkindle” could be viewed as an angry letter written to the crooked ‘establishment’ that holds power in this country and the world. It could also be viewed as a spell or ‘voodoo doll’ style song, cursing and casting a hex of disapproval and disgust upon those philistines and fascist that hold power. This song is also a call for people to wake up, get together and stand up for their values, love and peace. Hence “Awakening Enkindle”. But it’s also a lament. They were not intended to be protest songs… not even sure if they are… but we all know what has been going on over the past several months… and that’s when they were written. We were lucky enough to have the help of Anthony Gatti in Scarborough, ME who volunteered his time and studio to record the songs. We recorded them last Sunday, Aug 20th in about 3 hours time.”

Indeed, they are here and you should take note. I don’t necessarily all artists should be chained to writing politically charged songs or creating politically charged images or using your art to relay that message, but if this is something that hurts you, or irks you, or makes you sad I fully appreciate and respect the artists that do use the conduit of song or image to get those feelings out. For the rest of us, the art is here for us to digest and make us feel those feelings. Feel connected to others who are feeling the same way. And to Ryan and Erika I say “thank you” for sharing your songs with us. There is a lot of heart in this and it shows. - Red Line Roots

"Muddy Ruckus’ new self titled album blends rowdy Saturday night with joyous Sunday morning"

Muddy Ruckus might just be the most appropriately named band in Portland. A ruckus is indeed what they kick up, with music that’s a frenetic blend of blues, folk, gypsy swing, and traditional country delivered with a punky intensity that belies its rootsy origins. The muddy modifier is also appropriate; their music is down and dirty, steeped in the mud of the Mississippi delta and the Louisiana swamps, but also in the mud and grime of Woodstock and the mosh pit at an outdoor punk show. Equal parts rowdy Saturday night party and joyous Sunday morning church service, Muddy Ruckus’s self-titled debut album touches on the sacred, hints at the profane and encapsulates everything in between, all to the sound of an infectiously toe-tapping backbeat.

The first thing that leaps out at the listener upon hitting “play” on the new Muddy Ruckus record is the intriguing blend of voices. Lead vocalist/guitarist Ryan Flaherty sounds a little like Dr. John crossed with early Tom Waits. There’s a dash of Leon Redbone in there too, but with Dylan’s razor-sharp wit. Erika Stahl, equal parts June Carter Cash, Emmylou Harris and bluesy Bonnie Raitt, is a subtle vocal chameleon. Depending on the song, she can sound sassy, heartbroken, wickedly seductive, innocently angelic, tender and comforting, or any combination thereof, making her the perfect vocal foil for Flaherty. Rounding out the trio and providing back up vocals as well is Brian Durkin. His stand-up bass is the sturdy backbone of the Muddy Ruckus sound, and the main cause of the aforementioned toe-tapping.

Musically, the band’s sound is mostly acoustic, and the songs run the gamut from uptempo country stompers like opening track “Crawl On The Ceilling” (seriously, just try and sit still when listening to this one…it’s physically impossible!) to the ambling, laid-back blues of “Ruby Red” and the shuffling back porch lament of “Mother Mud” (bolstered nicely by a lilting fiddle courtesy of Phil Bloch). “Bulldozer” is an old-time country hoe-down number if ever there was one, and the jaunty “Butterfly Bullets” is pure gypsy swing delivered with a bluesy swagger. “Worse Things” contains some of the albums prettiest acoustic guitar work, while “Bag Of Bones” sees Stahl taking the lead vocal, sounding playful but resigned, accompanied by a bawdy trumpet solo from Marc Chillemi.

“Lightning” contains a powerfully emotive lead vocal from Ryan Flaherty that just might be his best singing on the entire record. The mournful bowed bass of Brian Durkin and world-weary backing vocals from Erika Stahl add depth and weight, making this one of the record’s stand-out tracks. Other notable tracks include “Come With Us”, which rises to a crescendo that’s half drunken singalong and half southern gospel choir, and “Convalescent Angel”, the only song on the album to feature an electric guitar (played by Mike Aciero). “Convalescent Angel” is also the most unique track on the album. Brooding, moody and mysterious, it features frighteningly visceral vocals, with lines like “Oh, what a scornful bitch you are!” delivered with venomous fury. Album closer “On And On” opts for a more pastoral approach, with a nice slide guitar and familiar, traditional country images like train wheels and dusty horizons evoking a feeling of restlessness and an urge to move on and leave the past behind.

With an album this good, Muddy Ruckus was all but obligated to take these songs on the road, and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing for the past few weeks. Ryan Faherty is originally from the Midwest, and the band booked a tour playing every night in different cities en route to and from Illinois. The band will take the stage at Empire in Portland on Friday for their official CD release show. Flaherty says “The tour went awesome! We’re finally home and ready to play for friends in Maine again! Empire is a great fit for us…and hats off to venues that advocate original music from their local musicians. Community support for local art and music will only help Portland continue to grow as an all around cool place and destination.” Rounding out the bill at Empire will be Riley Coyote and Pete Witham & The Cozmik Zombies. Tickets are $6, and the show starts at 9:30 p.m. Find more information at

Muddy Ruckus describes the songs on their debut as “reflection[s] of past mistakes, new beginnings and ramblings of everyday life observations, with a dash of cynical humor.” When asked what fans can expect at the CD release show, Flaherty says, “You’ll have to come and see,” but describes a typical Muddy Ruckus gig as “rowdy, sweaty and anthemically cartoonish.” Sounds like the perfect night of live music. - Maine Today


Muddy Ruckus - Muddy Ruckus, 2014
Pretty Bones - Muddy Ruckus, 2016
Awakening EP - Muddy Ruckus, 2017
Bellows To Mend - Muddy Ruckus 2018 

Brimstone - Muddy Ruckus 2019

Suffering and Light - Muddy Ruckus 2019

Chasm - Muddy Ruckus 2019



Muddy Ruckus is a power duo of darkly inventive americana rock. Guitarist Ryan Flaherty and percussionist Erika Stahl of Portland, Maine, play a grungy style of railroad indie punk blues and brimstone folk. The band blends rootsy guitar and edgy percussion on a suitcase drum kit, and is known for a full rock band sound, despite their duo status. They season their music with luminous harmonies and 'in-your-face' lyrics salted by the eastern old ports and mud of the Mississippi River where Flaherty grew up.

Muddy Ruckus was awarded “Best in State of Maine 2015” by the New England Music Awards. Their second album, Pretty Bones, was awarded 2106 “Album of the Year" by Red Line Roots. The band was also awarded 2017 "Rock N' Roller's of the Year" by RLR. 

Muddy Ruckus recently released their third album 'Bellows To Mend. The album was recorded in Scarborough, ME at Bulkhead Studios, where they also recorded Pretty Bones. The new album includes eleven songs that resonate deeply with the grit and intensity of the last album, but with more focus on the electric rock sound heard live at MR shows.  Recorded in only two weeks, mostly live, with just drums, guitar and vocals, the tracks were mastered at Gateway Mastering in Portland, Maine. 

"Darkly Inventive Americana" - New York Music Daily

Band Members