by: Kidman J. Williams
Band: Blacktop Mojo
Album: Burn the Ships
Label: Cuhmon Records (Self-owned Indie)
Twenty-two years old, recklessly driving at 90 mph in an ’87 Ford Bronco with a .351 small block blasting by cars on the decline of the Smokey Mountains – Chicago to Tampa in 16 hours. Only fueled by nicotine and heavy doses of caffeine pills equipped with a hangover from my good-bye celebration from the night before.
That is Blacktop Mojo’s sophomore album “Burn the Ships.” It is a hard rocking tromp through the Everglades while making love with a trashy southern belle.
Blacktop Mojo has spent their time opening up for acts like Bon Jovi, Aaron Lewis, Drowning Pool, and Puddle of Mudd; just to name a few.
Back in July of this year Blacktop Mojo decided to go for broke with recording “Burn the Ships” and went down to record at two of the most famous and legendary recording studios that this country has to offer. They took their talents to the Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville where Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kenny Chesney recorded. That is just a few of the Grammy winners that have recorded there.
Along with their producer Philip Mosley they brought on a co-producer by the name of Jimmy Johnson of the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studios along with long time sound engineer Steve Melton (The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd).
With these combinations, could they really go wrong?
“Burn the Ships” opens up a can of redneck whoop ass and then celebrates by head-banging over your bloody battered body with its opening song “8000 Lines.” The song lets you know who is boss right from the beginning and tells you that this is much more than just another metal band.
If you are looking for generic mall metal with simplistic chunky guitar down-strokes go download some Asking Alexandria. Blacktop Mojo brings a real musicianship and soul that you just don’t get to see much anymore in the download era where studios are just looking for snappy hit after hit.
The fourth track “Dog On A Leash” grabs you with its pseudo delta blues opening only to slap you with hard hitting metal rhythms while declaring independence. Something we can all relate to.
The 5th track on this album was an ambitious cover. When bands do covers they tend to go down faster than the Titanic. Not the movie where Kate let Leo die despite there being enough room on that hunk of wood, that took forever. I’m talking real life.
Blacktop Mojo covered Aerosmith’s prodigious song “Dream On.” We have all seen cover song crashes – Madonna doing “American Pie?”
Blacktop Mojo’s rendition of “Dream On” however, stands at full glory. Though the band didn’t change much of the song, they kept pretty traditional. What they did bring to the legendary song is their undeniable stamp. The singer didn’t try to be Steven Tyler, but let me tell you…when you hear the grungy soulful vocals from Matt James it adds a new dimension and then he delivers on the high notes dropping you down the basement steps. Saying that it “floors you” isn’t enough. It kicks you in the head down the basement steps.
Matt James (Vocals), Nathan Gillis (Drums), Ryan Kiefer (Lead Guitar), Kenneth Irwin (Rhythm Guitar), and Matt Curtis (Bass) bring a combination of musical melody and southern stomp that I haven’t heard in quite a long while.
It is like the old Lynyrd Skynyrd story where Ronnie Van Zant knocked out the piano players teeth in the studio. The music is just that. It is that rough southern soul with a harder rock and metal sound that you have to beat your chest to, but then can show you what the heart is all about with songs like “Prodigal” and can even give you a chill in your soul with the song “Underneath.”
Burn the Ships is a body of material that you can listen to from start to finish. It explores every part of the human condition and takes you on a very personal journey of your own. It almost hurts me to not give it a 5/5, but I have to be objective. Everyone will get something different out of this album, but you will get something out of it and that is the point of music.