The Mojo Blues Band – Shutdown/Erik Trauner – Downhome Acoustic Blues | Album Review

The Mojo Blues Band – Shutdown

17 tracks: 68.24 minutes

Erik Trauner – Downhome Acoustic Blues

19 tracks: 72.19 minutes

Styx Records – 2021

The Mojo Blues Band was formed in 1977 and has been very active ever since, this being their 18th album release. The band is based in Vienna, Austria, but has traveled to the States and recorded in Chicago with the likes of Taildragger, Little Mac Simmons and Willie Kent. Here we have two simultaneous releases with founding band member, lead vocalist and guitarist Erik Trauner offering a solo acoustic album alongside the band’s latest album.

Taking the band release first we have a five-piece with Erik on vocals, guitar, slide and harp, Siggi Fassl on vocals, guitar and steel guitar, Charlie Furthner on piano, guitar and ‘boogie stick’, Herfried Knapp on bass and Didi Mattersberger on drums. The material was recorded in Vienna over three days in July 2020, apart from one live track recorded in Switzerland and offered as a bonus track. The material includes eight covers alongside originals written by Erik (seven credits), Siggi (two credits) and Charlie (two credits), plus one number written by the whole band.

The overall style of the band is relaxed boogie tunes, typified by the opener “Flim, Flam”. Erik’s vocals are accent-free and the playing on guitars and piano is clear and devoid of excess. The title track has plenty of slide work behind the lyrics which describe the pandemic, no work and the inevitable questions about “who’s gonna pay the bill”. Charlie and Siggi combine on an instrumental “Steel City Bounce” which fairly rockets along, propelled by the rhythm section and the boogie piano; Charlie later offers a second instrumental “Boogie Hunter”. On “Lipstick Traces On My Pillow” Erik breaks out his harp, the chugging rhythm and high-pitched harp bringing Jimmy Reed to mind; no surprise really as the band also covers “Honest I Do” and the less well-known “Crazy About Oklahoma”, so Jimmy is definitely a touch point for the band. The band does branch out from that style on tracks like “Voodoo Woman” which has plenty of percussion effects to offer a swampy feel while “Walk The Bridge” takes us into Americana territory, a song that brought Neil Young to this reviewer’s mind. The live track “Do Me Up Good” has salacious lyrics but, despite the live setting, remains at a relaxed pace.

Alongside the two Jimmy Reed tunes the covers include Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years” which has excellent piano but a rather disappointing vocal that does not convey the sense of despair of some versions, a lively run through of Albert King’s “Why Are You So Mean To Me” and a great take on Rocket Morgan’s “You’re Humbuggin’ Me” which gives the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ cover a good run for its money. Lazy Lester’s “They Call Me Lazy” has a back porch feel and good harp work and the less familiar “I’m Mad” comes from Junior Pettis, a one-time sideman with Magic Slim & The Teardrops.

Erik’s solo album is even more generous on time than the band’s. Playing mainly slide, Erik gives us fourteen originals and five covers. John Littlejohn’s “Bloody Tears” has that Elmore James riff and canters along nicely while Son House’s “Country Blues” sounds very authentic and is sung superbly by Erik who you would never imagine to be from Vienna on the evidence here. Three familiar covers complete the covers: Southside Jimmy Oden’s “Goin’ Down Slow” is suitably anguished, especially in the slide work, Erik sings and plays well on Big Bill Broonzy’s “Just A Dream” and plays plenty of slide on Jimmy Rogers’ “That’s Alright”.

Erik’s originals cover classic blues themes like relationships going wrong (“It’s My Own Fault”), bad luck (“I Had The Wrong Mojo”) and tough times (“Don’t Talk About The Blues”). Erik pays tribute to his friend James Poe, who wrote the sleeve notes and runs a radio show in Mississippi, on “Greenwood Blues”, played to the tune of “Crossroads”, this downhome acoustic version probably far closer to Robert Johnson than Cream’s famous cover. However, Erik also has some original themes and shows that he did not miss out on some of the Mississippi’s culinary secrets in “Piggin’ Out” although his remark to a shapely lady walking away (that she has “Junk In Her Trunk”) may prove to be less than flattering! One song appears on both these releases, “Lipstick Traces On My Pillow”, the only track to feature a second musician, drummer Peter Müller, who adds the rhythm although this version is not as immediately catchy as the band’s. Erik closes the album with some country blues in “Goin’ Home Tomorrow”, keen to get back to his loved ones.

Throughout the acoustic disc Erik demonstrates his command of the blues styles, singing and playing extremely well. For fans of acoustic blues this is one not to miss while the band disc is fun and varied, making both releases worthwhile projects.

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