Mojo Parker – The Mojo Parker Express
10 songs, 52 minutes
Jam music is best when it is fully steeped in Blues and Soul and it has drive and intention. The endless unfocused noodling of Jam bands (who will remain nameless) would be great if there was just a strong singer and/or a sharp guitarist with some vision. Well Virginia is lucky enough to boast a shining light of salvation in Danny “Mojo” Parker. Parker is an impassioned soul singer with a strong rhythm guitar style and a focused songwriting voice. On Mojo’s 2nd full length The Mojo Parker Express named after his hot band, Parker and Co. featuring a sharp slide guitarist Grady Clark, jam out soulful roots music.
The Mojo Parker Express is a live in the studio album, meaning the performances were done in real time directly to “tape.” Parker says so in the opening introductory piece “Welcome Aboard the Express.” Over a laid back acoustic groove, Parker invites the listener into the room with the band and sets the tone for an original and intimate experience. Throughout the proceeding 8 songs Matt Gildner on bass, Manuel Rey on drums and Parker’s percussive raggedly thick rhythm guitar create a grooving versatile foundation. Parker’s vocals, Grady Clark’s guitar and Caleb Dance’s saxophone and flute float, grind, sway and moan over the rhythm section. Virginia’s resident authentic Roots music impresario “Big” Jon Atkinson is also credited for drums and harmonica, Atkinson always being a welcome addition to any proceeding.
The Mojo Parker Express moves between acoustic Blues/Folk, stepping up-beat jams and expanded expressively rough Soul epics. There is nothing quick or efficient about this express trip – the musicians take their time on each track and squeeze out every last drop of fun and feeling. First and foremost Mojo Parker is in the center of it all. His slightly scratchy Soul howl is equal parts Wilson Pickett bombast and Marvin Gay croon. The tone of his voice and his tradition informed phrasing move the music even if he is, like the greats always did, just repeating the same phrase riding the wave of the groove. Clark’s guitar and Dance’s sax and flute work in perfect harmony, often literally for instrumental passages like on the breathtaking “Must Be Love.” Clark in particular stretches out with inventiveness and creativity in his lead guitar work. Often guitarists shy away from big statements when they are in a vocalist’s band, but Clark lashes out as an equal melodic voice in ways that only accentuate Mojo’s powerful central statements.
Stand out tracks that illustrate the interplay of the full band include “Let It Ride” the first real song on the record. A swampy laid back lope in which Mojo employs an Al Green high tenor. The over 6 minute track allows guitar, horn and rhythm section to dig deep into the 2 chord vamp. The aforementioned stunner “Must Be Love” is a tender slow jam brought to the heights of group creation for almost 9 minutes of blissed out grooving. The acoustic version of “Your Love Is Gone” featuring Atkinson on harp, is a classic she-done-me-wrong hard luck romp. Sadly the electric version of this song tagged onto the end of the record doesn’t really land, but it is more than excused by the charisma of the front porch swing of the acoustic version. And for die hard Blues fans the 7 minutes of “South Border Blues” is pure slow Blues power with Clark sliding through with serpentine energy.
Jam Band gatekeepers please take notice, Mojo Parker and his Express are a balm to the wasteland of redundant rhythmic jamming. Steeped in deep Soul, staggering talent and group cohesiveness, The Mojo Parker Express is a great ride that thankfully makes all the stops.