Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mojo Burning reviewed by Mark Thompson

Mojo Burning
The Juvenators
10 tracks/40:33
The Juvenators hail from central Mississippi and have been together for the last ten years. The group consists of Virgil Brawley on lead vocals and guitar, Bob "Byrd" Lovell on guitar & vocals, George Vance on bass and Guy Wade on the drums. Their newest release is the third reccording of the band and features numerous guests including Greg "Fingers" Taylor on harp and James "T-Model" Ford on backing vocals on one cut. Eight of the songs are originals with Brawley having a hand in seven and Lovell co-writing on two tracks.
The band settles into a serious groove right from the start with the opening cut "All I Can Do". Taylor blows some hot fills on his harp while the twin guitars lay down a menacing sound over Wade's sledgehammer rhythm. .Brawley co-wrote "Handcuffed to the Blues", which makes a humorous examination of the consequences of love. Fingers Taylor makes another appearance and the track is filled out with some funky Hammond organ. There are two musicians, Joe Rogers and Johnny Young, credited with contributing organ parts to the disc but specific tracks are not spelled out in the notes. "Some People" is another Brawley original that features some fine slide guitar from Lovell.
The Juvenators turn the James Brown classic "This is a Man's World" in a haunting slow blues with some more fine slide guitar. The track suffers a bit as Brawley's vioce doesn't have the range needed to really pull this one off. Of course, it's tough to measure up when you are being compared to the Godfather of Soul music. The other cover falls flat as the band doesn't bring anything new to their version of Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody". Brawley's voice doesn't have the range or power to elevate the track to inspirational heights.
The highlight of disc is "Too Late to Cry", a soulful cut from Lovell's pen. His vocal perfectly captures the sadness and resignation expressed in the lyrics. Taylor lingers in the background with long, mournful tones from his harp to really establish the mood. The quiet nature of this cut is a dramatic contrast to hill country boogie sound of the title track and " Judgement Day", with the guitars laying down the requiste droning pattern and Wade providing the simple beat. T-Model can be heard on "Black Hanna" shouting out a distorted refrain of " the blues" at the key points during the track.
Another strong point on the disc is that the group consistently gets some fine sounds from the guitars. Taylor is delight on every track he plays on. Brawley and Lovell have written some solid tunes that allow the band to create their own identity. If there were more vocal performances like the one on "Too Late to Cry", this release would stand out from the flood of recent blues recordings.

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