Blacktop Mojo

I Am

Written by: BW on 23/11/2014 20:47:06

Quality can shine through if you really look deep enough to find it. A lot of bands nowadays seem to forget this and just decide that they will copy what is around in the hope that it will blend in and possibly be picked up by someone somewhere and that will be enough. When I started listening to the first track from Texan five piece, Blacktop Mojo, I had this sinking feeling that I was about to go down a road I have been heading on a lot of the time when reviewing albums, in that it just felt like yet another basic beat rock album with little to make it scream at you to pay attention.

Thankfully though, this was a false impression. I do admit that “Open Road” doesn’t sound like the worst song ever written, but because you could source parts from a load of other bands and maybe even put vocals in to replace what’s there and think it was THAT song should be a warning sign if ever there was one. After getting by that opening stumble though I began to treat this album like a really good movie, in that sometimes you just need to be patient for that one thing to happen to really catch your interest.

I’ve listened to this quite a few times, and although the first track doesn’t grow on me, the majority of the rest of them do. There seems to be a little spark about these boys. Instead of keeping to the traditions of every generic hard rock band they do seem to want to slip some nice nuances in there. Minor dual vocals and soft acoustic guitars seem to sneak in like uninvited party guests who end up fitting in like they were meant to be there in the first place. I do feel that there are some bland parts in some of the songs, but you’ll find that in most band's production. It is what they add to their album that makes you smile a bit. The slow songs are natural and don’t feel at all forced, and there are some lovely chord blends that are as good as a fine wine.

“Why” is a very good example of what they can do right when they really put their mind to it. Sure, we get that simple beat and the guitars keeping themselves out of any major mischief, but the build up is lovely and makes things work a damn sight better than some other ballad styled tunes I’ve listened to, and there's enough dual harmonised electric axes to keep it pleasant without going overkill. These guys still sound like they have the desire to write hearty music rather than overcomplicate it to the point where it sounds like drivel.

When I listen to “I AM” I do hear a lot of stuff to like. In the title track everything seems to be put together right, with a simple, but strong guitar intro and some meaty, but not to the point of overkill, drumming, taking the song along well enough. It also shows off the vocal range of Matt James, who seems to cope with most things thrown at him, although there does appear to be small moments where the highest notes strain the throat a little. One thing I think this track in particular could have done with is doubling the drum speed near the end to add a little more depth near the end, but that just goes down to personal preference. It is still a lovely track as it stands.

I think this opinion may have something to do with the fact that the whole album doesn’t really seem to go all that fast, but I guess heavy rock music never really does that very often, but it should. That is the only real criticism I could take to this: That it just needs a little pace here and there because it would just add more to things. “Trouble on the Rise” and “Next Bullet” are good songs and they should be slower because of the way they are, but as I’ve said already, “I am” and possibly one or two other songs on here could just benefit a lot from a little pace change on occasion.

This is of course being overly harsh on what is an impressive debut outing. The tracks as they are sound pretty decent to me (apart from “Open Road”) but there is a gem in amongst all of this that is simply outstanding to me and that one is “Back Home” as the blend is just outstanding. The track is a very slow ballad that mixes the abilities of the band extremely well. Dual harmony, nice subtle keyboard work, good double guitars and a perfect tempo just let this whole song flow so well and I genuinely love it.

I do think that as debut albums go, I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve heard. It was never going to be perfect, as they never are, but there is one sure fire way to me that I know this is a very good starting album. In order to get enough listening time for the albums I get to review I have a go at them when I’m at work and put them on every afternoon to ensure I get enough exposure. When people you work with come up to your desk and ask you what the name of that band is because they think they’re (and I quote) “REALLY GOOD” then you know they must be doing something right.

This should be out in time for Christmas, so this is a nice way to get your rock on going into the festive season. It is a little rough around the edges, but the amount of promise it shows is not a bad thing. Add to that the fact I already know people who like it after listening to it once shows they are onto something. I think there is a spark there and if they stick to mixing some other elements in with what the majority want then they could tick all the boxes.

Download: Why, I Am, Back Home, Trouble on the Rise
For The Fans Of: Shinedown, Godsmack, Alter Bridge, Nickelback
Listen: facebook.com

Release date 24.11.2014
Self Released

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