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John And The Sisters
John And The Sisters
Northern Blues Music

Mojo Gurus
Hot Damn!
Perris Records


I'm trying this one out as an experiment in contrast between two albums of a somewhat similar grouping (I'll lump them together in the genre of Blues Rock, although each borrows from numerous influences). Each offers something different (and the same) on the whole to the listener due to the very different concepts of what each band is trying to create. Kevin Breit of John And The Sisters has more talent in his little finger than most musicians in the music industry today, (he can play more than 30 different instruments) and surely more than all of the Mojo Gurus combined - but the Mojo Gurus is comprised of a cast with a polished and perfected sound where each musician is so compatible and singularly capable that the end result is nearly machine-perfect. The Mojo Gurus have tweaked their formula just so, and don't really deviate from it in the course of Hot Damn!. They have, in essence, a distilled sound derived from many influences that exist in mildly varying amounts in each of their songs. John and The Sisters on the other hand, is more of a musical essay. There is no formula present, nor does its sound really adhere to any genre-specific mold from song to song. Measured on the scale of artistic endeavor, John and The Sisters is the superior of the two as a successful exercise in experimental blues rock, but Hot Damn! exhibits greater pop-sensibility. The songs are tighter, driving and purposeful. It feels like it's on a mission to entertain, whereas John and The Sisters has no end goal in mind; the means is the end.

So what of the same? Well, sort of. Both albums contain songs that I first though had the same title; "Raylene" and "Pralene" tell the stories of two very different women. One is a vampy "lonestar queen" with a "shake just like a rattlesnake and a bite that's twice as mean", and the other is an overweight "trailer park queen" who "watches too damn much TV." One is a down & dirty blues lament of a rather useless wife, and the other is a cold and impersonal homage: a strutting and slinking tip of the hat to a man-eater.

Comparisons ultimately lead to a recommendation of one over the other, but since these two albums ultimately satisfy different consumer needs, I must say that each of these belong in the collections of blues rock enthusiasts for different reasons. John and The Sisters is a wonderful showcase for the prodigiously talented Kevin Breit and his gang of musical mercenaries, and gives the rest of us a chance to experience the scope of what one of the best studio musicians around can do on his own. As such, the album has a distinct studio sound that is better suited to that environment than it would ever be live. Hot Damn! gives a CD's worth of air-ready tracks that shake, rattle and roll. This album is not reliant on the studio environment to create a specific effect as the Mojo Gurus' press release made much of their live performances, and this album indicates that their style of play seems amply suited to the stage.

If there's an edge though, it goes to John and The Sisters: the only real weakness of the Mojo Gurus is that their vocalist doesn't have a lot of range and that stunts the level of emotion he is capable of evoking in songs that I feel require a greater ability to soar to the heights or dwell in the depths of what the material occasionally demands.


Track Listings:

John and The Sisters

1. Too Damn Big
2. Only One
3. Big Bomb
4. Treat Her Right
5. Gun
6. Bad Machine
7. L.A.
8. And We Touched
9. Pralene
10. Faithful
11. Better Way
12. Son of a Gun
13. Money Changes Everything
14. Good Day
15. Penguin Walk
16. Love to Stay, Gotta Go
17. Hocktaves

Mojo Gurus

1. Race with the Devil
2. You'd Have to Tie Me Up to Tie Me Down
3. Spoonful
4. Linda Marie
5. Bumble Bee
6. Raylene
7. Black Cat Blues
8. Long Hard Road
9. Clarksdale
10. Too Too Much

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