Midnight Mojo’s debut CD contains 70 minutes of intense, high octane blues and blues based rock. Its 15 tracks are an impressive mix combining 4 originals with standards and classics. The band is comprised of 3 young, middle class white kids from a small Canadian city proving modern blues isn’t a southern U.S. phenomenon. Band members include Kristofer Ryken on drums and Steve Regnier on bass. Without a doubt, Mojo evolves around guitar sensation Michael Schatte who was only 15 at the time of recording. Schatte handles lead guitar, lead vocals and either wrote or co-wrote all the originals. He has strong vocals for his age which will only get stronger.
"Backstabbin’ Blues" is a fast shuffle beginning with a flurry of notes. The tune contains plenty of Hoochie Coochie Man rolls and blazing guitar. Guest harpist, Jeff Mifflin, is outstanding on "Thank You Mr. Wolf" with its obvious influence. This traditional blues song has a hypnotizing rhythm. Incredible guitar tone is achieved on "Lawdy Mama" which mixes soft and smooth with hard and heavy. They turn the classic "Dimples" into an outright rocker that features scorching guitar. "Two Time Boogie" hits you hard in the face and knocks you off your chair. They do some swinging rockabilly in the vein of Colin James on "Down The Line".
Acoustic guitar is featured on "Shame Shame Shame" and "Sittin’ Here Crying". The latter contains vinyl-style hiss and crackle to give it an aged feel. "Gary Seven" is a dazzling jazz-blues fusion instrumental. Here, Michael and fellow Chatham guitarist, Tom Lockwood, trade flashy licks reminiscent of Allman and Betts on Live At The Fillmore. Fret-blazing, wailing guitar takes over on Freddie King’s "Manhole".
The final 4 tracks were recorded live before a wildly enthusiastic hometown crowd at O’Donnell’s After Dark. Some of these tunes contain sing alongs and drum solos which don’t always work on disc. However, "Tin Pan Alley" is brilliant. The vocals are great, the rhythm is driving and the lead is searing yet passionate. By the time, the band gets around to playing their power, swinging version of "Got My Mojo Working", the crowd is in a tizzy. Here the boys show their fondness of improvising as hints of Baby Please Don’t Go, Peter Gunn and Staying Alive are included in the 9 minute extravaganza.
The disc features many kinds of music proving the band (and especially Schatte) can play just about anything. At times it lacks direction other than to showcase Schatte’s bag of exhilarating guitar tricks. Don’t expect this CD to receive nominations for traditional blues album of the year. They are a young band and with youth comes fresh ideas. Younger doesn’t necessarily mean inferior but in an established genre, like blues, an older band has the advantage of experience. Over time, the solos will be delivered with less frenzy and even more feeling and soul. The future of the blues is in good hands.
For CDs, booking and information, contact: Midnight Mojo, PO Box 814, Chatham, ON N7M 5L1 Canada
Phone: (519) 351-6714
This review is copyright © 2001 by Tim Holek, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.
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