Blacktop Mojo’s third album, Under the Sun, is undoubtedly their best album yet. The album shows off the experience the band has gained, defines Blacktop Mojo’s unique sound while paying tribute to their earlier influences, and can easily be found on a playlist with any of the big players in rock. Under the Sun will appeal to any music enthusiast at the most basic level while providing plenty of treats for those interested in the technical aspect of music. The ten tracks provide a well-rounded amount of influences and sounds while coming together as a complete musical journey.
From the first listen to the first note of the album, anyone who has listened to Blacktop Mojo’s two previous albums, I Am and Burn the Ships, will immediately notice that this album is several levels above both previous albums thanks to the increased technical skills and musicianship of each member. Drummer Nathan Gillis was excellent on both previous albums, but this album takes the drums up several notches. You can hear the enthusiasm that Gillis has for his instrument with every beat. Bass played by Catt Murtis (Matt Curtis) gets its own times to shine throughout the album, and even to an untrained ear, his level of musicality is evident. To those with a better trained ear, the bass will be a real treat. The bass in albums is usually ignored, but to do so on this album would be to miss out on one of the most interesting parts.
The aspect of this album that has improved the most since Burn the Ships is the guitar. The addition of Chuck Wepfer to the lineup has added an edge not seen in the last two albums. Ryan Kiefer has come out of his shell in this album and it can clearly be heard in his playing, as it takes on his own unique personality. The guitars never overwhelm each other and never fight for dominance; they always work in pure harmony. Some songs have added a third guitar, which increases the quality of the music. Each of these four musicians have proven themselves masters of their craft in every track, but the best musicians in the world would not be a good band without the right frontman. Vocalist Matt James is the perfect frontman. His charisma shines through the album, as does his impressive range. James has a strong voice that gives each song their power. He belts out strong choruses, but also easily transitions to quieter songs. The combination of these five musicians is magic. The mixing of the tracks on this album is also high-quality.
Under the Sun has ten tracks, with “Can’t Sleep” being the first single released.
There is no bad track on this album, but fans will find themselves drawn to certain songs over others based on their own personal preferences in music. Some songs are grungier, others more hard rock, and yet others take inspiration from the blues. Blacktop Mojo has developed a unique sound that is a mix of all these infused with that unique sound of Southern rock and something that is uniquely Blacktop Mojo.
“Lay It On Me” starts with a strong drum beat accompanied by pounding bass. The guitar helps build the anticipation as the song gets harder and faster before the vocals join in. The vocals start off relatively low-key in comparison to the anthemic chorus that begs to be yelled in full volume. The harmony of the backing vocals during the chorus add extra dimension to the song. This song was the perfect choice for opening track of the album as it sets the tone for a top-notch album. The guitars get slightly psychedelic during the solo in the best way possible and the high vocals will have many trying to hit the same notes as James. “Lay It On Me” has a big sound that is meant to be played in an arena.
“Come Get Your Coat” introduces even more exciting guitar. This song has an intoxicating chorus with even more top-notch backing vocals. About halfway through the song, the music drops out for a split second and changes pace for a little bit before picking back up. This piques the listener’s interest before heading into one of the best guitar solos on the album.
“It Won’t Last” is the first song fans of the blues should play but will appeal to fans of all genres. This bluesy tune provides variety to the album, which will result in a wider audience. The smoothness of this song in comparison to others on this album also showcases the versatility of the band. As in every other track on this album, the guitar is sensational.
“All Mine Now” is one of the most special tracks on the album thanks to the harmony of the chorus being sung along to the sound of hands clapping in rhythm. Listeners can easily imagine themselves singing along to this song in a live setting. This small part of the tune takes it from a good track on the album to one of the best.
This reviewer believes that “The Lashing (Ghost)” is this album’s best track. In every other tune, you can hear the significant improvement that has been made by the band members, but this track takes that improvement to another level. It is a significant change of pace from the other tracks and feels like a special treat. The listener feels that a song is being told to the tune of beautiful music. This is the track that takes Blacktop Mojo from good songwriters to excellent songwriters that deserve your attention.
Under the Sun is a very cohesive album with enough influences to attract a large audience of fans, but plenty of unique aspects that they have developed their own unique sound. Since their first album released, Blacktop Mojo have largely increased their following. This album will not only continue to increase their fanbase but will also surely be the direct catalyst that launches the band even higher on their path to selling out arenas. Nathan Gillis, Matt James, Ryan Kiefer, Catt Murtis (Matt Curtis), and Chuck Wepfer seem to have found the magical formula for creating a topnotch album. This album proves that there is something special about the band from Texas not seen in many other bands.
Title track “Under the Sun” states “…nothing new under the sun…” but this reviewer would disagree with a caveat; the addition of Chuck Wepfer resembles that of Joe Walsh to the Eagles. The music has a bigger sound and the variety of backgrounds from the artists keeps the personalities shining through the music interesting. Blacktop Mojo is uniquely their own band with their own sound, but if history is to repeat itself as this reviewer believes, we are only a few short years away from Blacktop Mojo being a household name. Under the Sun is a highly recommended album. Buy several copies for yourself and a few for your friends as well.
- Lay It On Me
- Set It Free
- Come Get Your Coat
- It Won’t Last
- All Mine Now
- Can’t Sleep
- The Lashing (Ghost)
- The Void
- Under the Sun
Under the Sun is out September 13. You can preorder Under the Sun here.
Post by Karen Shalev
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