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Mojo Stu – Wild About My Baby

Mudbone Records/MilesTone Media Inc.

11 tracks; Total runtime: 45:55 minutes

In his 4th CD, Wild About My Baby, Philly-based slide guitarist Mojo Stu (Stu Bryant) shows himself to be a man of contrasts. This CD contains a good mix of acoustic and electric guitar work, as well as a variety of musical styles – from foot-stompin’ hillbilly to rockin’ blues. Bryant executes all with great skill and precision, which can be rare in a slide guitarist.

The playlist starts out with an instrumental slide version of “Amazing Grace,” which is a nice alternative take on the classic hymn. The 3rd cut, “If I Could Cry,” featuring vocals by Dezi Orio, is pleasantly reminiscent of ballads you might have heard in the early 1960’s. The 5th cut, “So Long,” is a fairly slow hillbilly-style tune with a good vocal blend; while the 8th cut, “Jitterbug Swing,” seems like just the kind of song Jed and Granny Clampett would have chosen for their “fancy foot stompin’” in the mansion foyer. My favorite cut on the CD is the last one, “Footsnewgy Bituminous Tusk.” I can’t say what that means, but I can tell you that this song has the most contemporary sound of any on this CD, with the perfect amount of slide and wah-wah, and a hard-driving guitar solo. Bryant describes it as “off-the-rails rock/blues” and I would concur.

Listen to this CD three times and you’ll likely be singing, humming or whistling these bright and catchy tunes throughout your day. The first bit of contrast you’ll notice will be Bryant’s gravel-voiced vocals on these happy little songs, but what is even more striking is that the lyrics are of a decidedly different mood than the musical elements.

For example, the 9th cut on this CD, “Goin’ Down,” sounds like a fairly cheerful dance tune, but is clearly about picking a fight; while the catchy 2nd cut, “Bye Bye Baby,“ contains this line: “Goin’ downtown with a pistol in my hand. Gonna prove to you, Baby, that I’m a killin’ man.” The music from the 4th cut, “She’s Alright,” could easily become a sitcom theme song, but listen to the lyrics and you’ll find that “she’s” no June Cleaver, and that the sitcom is liable to carry a parental warning. Now, there’s nothing wrong with all this, as rock and blues have long covered themes like heartache, sex and violence. I just find this music-to-lyrics contrast surprising and interesting … and have, ever since that fateful day when I heard a nun happily humming “Afternoon Delight.”

To further the contrast, Mojo Stu’s website reveals that the proceeds from his 3rd CD, Real House Blues, went to the “Peace, Love and Sunshine” charitable foundation Bryant set up in 2001 to benefit children and other worthy causes. (Note: I did not see any indication that the proceeds of this current CD are also going to charity.)

Contrasts aside, Bryant’s slide guitar style and low, gravely vocals are generally a good match for blues and the other genres he covers. However, it occasionally seems like the vocals are slightly under pitch – a common hazard for this voice type, but something to be vigilant about. I also found it a bit frustrating that some links on the website went nowhere – likely not a high priority for a busy musician who has just launched a new CD, but worth keeping up-to-date for those fans who still use websites to find information and merchandise from their favorite artists.

Overall, Wild About My Baby is a lesson in contrasts, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. If you love well-executed slide and happy, catchy tunes, pop it in your car stereo and give it a listen. Just take note that you might not want your 3-year-old singing along.

Reviewer Sheila Skilling is a self-professed “blues fan by marriage,” who was hooked by her husband’s musical preferences, but reeled in by the live performances of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy and others. She lives in the Minneapolis area.

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