Together In Love We Drown
BluesWax Rating: 7 out of 10
High Highs and Low Lows
On their sophomore release, the Ohio-based zydeco jam band Mo’ Mojo expands its horizons, moving into more bluesy territory than on their previous release. Together In Love We Drown incorporates touches of folk, soul, and Americana roots, but sometimes strays to a point that zydeco purists (if there is such a thing) might occasionally ask, “Where’s the zydeco?” The band seems to be attempting to forge a genre of its own, which sometimes works and sometimes falls a little short.
While accordionist Jen Maurer’s vocals dominate most of the disc, a number of tracks have her trading off leads with Davidione Pearl; Leigh Ann Wise contributes harmonies or unison backing vocals most of the time. More than anything, it’s the combination of these three that defines the group’s sound, and that defining sound has a tendency to become monotonous over the course of the record. There are only a couple of spots where we can full appreciate Maurer’s vocal prowess, like on the stripped-down country ballad “Please.” The stark simplicity (two guitars and vocals) makes the track stand out amid the density of the rest of the disc. Joe Golden’s sensitive and restrained leads raise the tune to something ethereal.
The best cuts, without question, are those that offer up the quirky brand of zydeco that the band is known for. “When I’m Gone,” “I Love The Country Life,” and “Mo’ Mojo Zydeco” show off a broad knowledge of zydeco, with this last number being nothing but a danceable jam as zydeco should be. The fiddle-driven “Hold To A Dream” is classic Cajun, kept in time with persistent triangle. You can’t have a dance set without a waltz and “Soul’s Day Waltz” provides that respite. These are the band at its best.
When the band veers off the beaten path, it’s an entirely different picture. The mysterious “Maya” again has Maurer/Wise/Pearl combination over Golden’s murky guitar leads. The play between the guitar and Bill Lestock’s fiddle is nothing short of delightful, but the tune takes a turn for the odd with a Beatles-inspired vocal break near the end. Tension and counterpoint can be interesting, but the incongruity is over the top. The title cut is a jumble of pieces that never seem to fall into place: funky guitar and horns, a strong accordion line, and a verbal back-and-forth between Maurer and Pearl that’s reminiscent of Paula Abdul and Skat Kat’s “Opposites Attract.” It’s the opener and it. just. doesn’t. work.
Conversely, the six-minute closer, “Everything Is As It Should Be,” successfully draws on wide and varied influences while straying far from the bayou, wandering into a swirl of mellow pop. The tune evokes late ‘60′s psychedelic soul, like The Supremes’ “Reflections,” with a hint of Jefferson Airplane. Not zydeco, but still very good, and making the most of Maurer’s pipes and showcasing the best of Golden’s fretwork. Aside from the real Cajun and zydeco tunes, this is the best of the set.
Part of me misses the days of LPs, when an artist could shift gears mid-album. Think of Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, with an acoustic side and an electric side. This album could easily be cut into sides of traditional zydeco and avant-garde experimentation, and the whole would be greater than the sum of its parts. Fans will love it because they’re fans; the discerning listener might get lost in the shuffle.
Eric Wrisley is a contributing editor at BluesWax and a contributing writer at Blues Revue.
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