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Old Time Mojo
     

Old Time Mojo

by Mike Stevens
 
Bluegrass has changed from being a technical innovation in the '30s -- how it was recorded is as much part of its sound as the musical strands it drew on -- to a continuing tradition, one that harmonica player Mike Stevens and fiddler/guitarist/banjo player/singer Raymond McLain know well via many years of performing together. Old Time Mojo, their first duo

Overview

Bluegrass has changed from being a technical innovation in the '30s -- how it was recorded is as much part of its sound as the musical strands it drew on -- to a continuing tradition, one that harmonica player Mike Stevens and fiddler/guitarist/banjo player/singer Raymond McLain know well via many years of performing together. Old Time Mojo, their first duo album and nearly all covers or revamps of traditional songs, finds a way to make old and new work together that's at once clever ("Dueling Banjos" as a banjo/harmonica duet!) and enjoyable -- for all the talk about the vintage microphones used and the sense of forelock-pulling invoked, this feels warm, immediate, and alive instead of like a reverent tribute. (It's not for nothing Bob Wills' "Take Me Back to Tulsa" gets a smoking reworking here.) McLain's singing, compared to much of the weedy revivalism that grounds alt-country as a genre into a cul de sac, is strong, clear, and vibrant; one gets the feeling he's singing with a barely suppressed smile at the joy of the music he and Stevens create. Catch his suddenly emotional twang on the Louvin Brothers' "Cash on the Barrelhead" or his lovely high-and-lonesome tones on the album's sole original, "I'm Always in Love With You," for highlights. His playing on various stringed instruments is equally strong, but it by no means overshadows the work of Stevens -- he may "only" play one instrument, but he owns that harmonica, ranging from the plaintive train tones on "Wabash Cannonball" to a peppy rip through Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." That the duo can suddenly pull into hyperdrive when it comes to instrumental flash -- "Blowin' Up a Storm" finds the two going flat-out nuts on banjo and harmonica, trading off in a way that most Berklee grads probably couldn't approach -- further shows they know their chops and history both.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/08/2005
Label:
Borealis Recording
UPC:
0773958116221
catalogNumber:
162

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