Joe Mystery – Wicked Town | Album review

joemysterycdJoe Mystery – Wicked Town

Self-produced CD

10 songs – 46 minutes

Enigmatic multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer Joe Mystery emerges from the shadows with this interesting mixture of blues, rock and roots.

A New Jersey native who cut his teeth at the Fillmore East and New York City’s Central Park in the ‘60s, Joe and his self-named rock group were featured artists at some of the most popular Manhattan venues in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, including Kenny’s Castaways, CBGB’s and The Other End. In addition to session work, he owns and operates OmniMix Studios, where this CD was recorded. Mystery’s always had a deep love for the blues, having witnessed many of the top names in the business in his youth, and puts his own personal spin on the music here.

A labor of love, he’s written all 10 of the tunes in addition to playing guitar, harmonica, keys, bass and drums behind his own vocals. The only assist he receives in the entire work are the contributions of bassist Simon Burke and drummer Mike Toohey on one instrumental in the set.

From the jump, this disc has a rootsy feel, set off by the cover illustration. Taken by famed female photographer Marion Post Wolcott, who worked for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression, it depicts the Jax Beer Joint and gas station in Melrose, Louisiana. The image pulls you straight into the first cut, “Root Doctor (The Hoodoo Man),” in which Mystery delivers his take on the sound of the deep Delta. The tune combines the feel of a juke with ‘60s-style psychedelic overtones as Joe sings about his prowess at casting spells and working magic. His guitar stylings are haunting, set atop an interesting pattern on the the keyboard along with a steady rhythm pattern.

“1000 Ways To Die” fires out of the starting gate with a drum roll as Mystery urges the listener to “hold on to your life” above a rapid-fire shuffle while reminding himself that “dyin’ don’t suck.” The disc adopts somewhat of a Latin feel with the guitar intro to “Brando,” a tribute to the big-screen idol, before launching into “Love Me Like A Locust,” in which he wants to be swarmed over in a romance.

The next four tunes — “Johnny Wyoming,” “Wicked Town,” “Cowboy Of A New Western Dream” and “Rancho Love” – all have Western themes. “Wyoming” is the closest song yet to a true blues as Mystery sings about the “kinkiest sidewinder who ever lived.”

The album title cut tells the story of a woman named Lori LaRue who lived near the tracks and whose phone number was inscribed on bathroom walls. Despite her shortcomings, the singer, a lonely sailor, yearns for her. “Cowboy” kicks off with a bluesy guitar line as Joe sings about riding off into a new frontier: outer space, while “Rancho Love” is a straight-ahead blues in which he’s a trucker heading for a rendezvous. Available through Amazon and iTunes, the disc concludes with the instrumental “Joe Mystery’s Stampede” and “Two Men (A Miner’s Tale),” the story of gold fever, in which only one of the guys comes back.

“Wicked Town” isn’t straight blues by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a worthwhile production nonetheless. You’ll really like it if your tastes run toward the rock blues, especially the work of Jim Morrison and the Doors. As a creature of the ‘60s with an open mind toward the blues, I found this an interesting change of pace from my normal listening habit.

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