Ms Zeno The Mojo Queen – Back In Love
Ms Zeno The Mojo Queen is Verlinda Zeno, a Memphis staple for the last 30 years. Discovered by Little Milton in Natchioches, Louisiana in 1989, she joined him in Memphis as a backup singer. Albert King introduced her to Beale Street. She was the first house band when BB King’s club opened on Beale. 2,000 shows and 26 years later she is still going strong.
Producer Paul Niehaus IV plays bass, guitar, drums, keys, tenor sax, mandolin and French Horn and also sings background. Kevin O’Connor is also on drums, guitar, keys, baritone & tenor sax, and trumpet. Little G Weevil appears on guitar on 4 tracks and Brandon Santini is on harp for a pair of cuts. Gene Jackson does some vocals on a half dozen songs and Roland Johnson does so on a pair of tunes, too. Dustin Shrum plays trumpet, Andy Hainze cello, Mark Hochberg viola, and Abbie Steiling violin. Tom Martin is on accordion on one cut.
The title track opens the CD. Ms Zeno lets it all hang out with some stellar work on her vocals. She sings with emotion and authority, grabbing the listener and not letting go. The horns and strings here and on the next cut make for a nice mix. “In My Shoes” takes the tempo down and Ms Zeno gives us a pretty soul ballad. Restrained guitar by G Weevil and other support make this a soulful and pleasant ride. Things build to a nice finish to lead into the forthright “That’s How I Know.” Ms Zeno testifies to us and again builds the song to an enthusiastic climax. “Willie Brown” gives us some harp in the mix from Brandon Santini. Zeno shows us she is comfortable with slow blues as she emotes and gives us a treat. G Weevil is on guitar again pick out some cool stuff, too. Ms Zeno the Mojo Queen next gives us “Mojo Queen,” with some accordion mojo to add to the mix. Zeno again lets it hang loose and gives us a great song with some Cajun influence. “Rise Up” is another beautiful ballad. The pacing is precise, the vocals superb and the sound sultry and just great.
“Love Is Like A Flower” features cool trumpet/horns, French horn, and is another fine blues ballad. Zeno shows restraint and occasionally belts out a powerful vocal riff when appropriate. She finishes strong and exuding emotion. Santini returns for a swinging cut entitled ‘Call My Name.” Zeno and Santini share the spot light as both give their all. Harp and vocals both shine an make statements as does Little G Weevil on guitar. Backing vocals are strong and varied here, too, with Gene Jackson making an appearance. “Gotta Get Paid” gets a nice funky groove going. The guitars are cool, the horns are hot and Zeno struts her stuff nicely.
“Mistress” gives us the strings for the third and final time, winding a web of intrigue. Slow, sultry and restrained, Zeno’s restraint is superb. Horns and strings make for added emotion and, well, as I said a feeling of intrigue. “The spicy cut “Hot Sauce” is next. Zeno struts her stuff again, giving us a performance filled with confidence and sass. The trumpet plays a big part with the horns making for a saucy and sassy sound. The CD ends with “Father Time,” a slow and lament-filled blues song. Lap/pedal steel adds to the flavor but it’s Zeno letting loose a bit here and there and ending with a big finish, a great conclusion to a great album.
A dozen new cuts penned by Zeno and/or members of the band really show well. The songs have slick arrangements and Zeno, her band and guests all excel. Soul and blues lovers get a lot to savor here; well worth getting and listening too! I really enjoyed this one!