Raissa Khan-Panni has suffered a fair few setbacks in the course of her fifteen-year music career, but none can compare to the tragic death of her greatest collaborator Mark Horwood in September 2009. Horwood, the de facto musical director for The Mummers and orchestrator extraordinaire, took his own life just as the band’s debut album Tale To Tell and the accompanying live shows had started to gather momentum. Regrouping several months later, the band set themselves up in a new home-built studio on the Brighton seafront and began to piece together a new mini-album. Named after the street on which Todd Rundgren lived while making his 1978 album Hermit Of Mink Hollow, and featuring a cover of that album’s ‘Fade Away’, Mink Hollow Road is far from the gloomy, soul-searching collection that fans could fairly have expected. Quite the opposite, in fact; the six songs here shimmer with the same quirky magic that made Tale To Tell such a delight to the ears.
From the gentle beginnings of ‘Call Me A Rainbow’ right through to the whimsical finale ‘Stuck In The Middle’, Mink Hollow Road has all the qualities of a fairytale adventure. Though it’s just as richly orchestrated, it’s a more mellow proposition than Tale To Tell. Whereas that album had a stronger sense of urgency and pageantry, here The Mummers sound very much at ease, displaying a wonderfully serene resilience in the wake of their anguish. The cover of ‘Fade Away’ sums it up best as Khan-Panni recasts Rundgren’s words in her own context, “Sometimes I want to hide myself away / but I know there’s no escape / we must go on, go on forever.” Horwood’s influence is still very much present on Mink Hollow Road, celebrated and commemorated without tears. The only complaint is that the record is so short; just as the listener is fully re-immersed in The Mummers’ enchanting, feelgood universe, the album ends and the magical adventure is over in a flash.
[Big Bass Drum; January 24, 2011]