Five decades of taking care of sound business bring a new shine to rock ‘n’ roll outlaws’ battle-scarred talisman.
One may wonder why this ensemble would bother to issue a fresh album after the longest, not counting the band’s hiatus between 1984 and 1993, gap in their discography – not for nothing the veterans once described what they do as centuries of boogie and always defied such sameness. Still, a mere rumbling minute of the platter’s opener “She’s A Little Bit Of Everything” is enough to dissolve any doubt that the group’s new line-up retained the collective’s initial potential to deliver the feel-good goods. And that’s how the scratching of the seven-year itch – which ensued since 2016’s “Under The Influence” finished a six-year period of waiting for a successor to "Last Train Home" – should feel, with deeper delving into it showing there’s indeed a little bit of everything on their eighteenth studio record. More importantly, the quartet haven’t lose an iota of their talent, road-tested for five decades, to surprise the listener.
It’s not the matter of the foursome embarking on a deliciously smooth country-rock jaunt in the middle of “Sonic Mojo” – on the Hank Williams tribute “Wish I’d A Been There” and the honeyed cover of Rodney Crowell’s “Song For The Life” – because rockabilly moves manifested on “Zig-Zag Walk” forty years ago were a testament to their ability to embrace this idiom. Neither it’s the matter of half of the team’s originals on offer – which, in turn, comprise half of the tracks here – being co-penned with Kim Simmonds, the recently departed leader of SAVOY BROWN whence FOGHAT sprang. Ultimately, it’s the matter of demonstrating a lot of gusto and filigreed grooves from start to end and deceiving the audience into believing the group famous for supercharging “Honey Hush” and other rhythm-and-blues standards can’t take a slow ride to transform Elvis’ perennial “Mean Women Blues” into a seductively mellifluous, Peter Green-styled serenade or render Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” as a panache-propelled finale. Perhaps, there’s new blood to help fuel the engine that drummer Roger Earl, the band’s backbone from the beginning, and Bryan Bassett, the troupe’s guitarist for the last quarter-century, stoke with age-challenging energy; and though bassist Rodney O’Quinn and singing axeman Scott Holt, formerly a promising solo performer, appeared on the ensemble’s previous album, now they come to the fore to stun the punters with dazzling riffs and vocal prowess.
And humor too, as suggested by the streamlined “I Don’t Appreciate You” which marries blistering rawk ‘n’ roll licks to cynical AOR glimmer, while the superficially serious “Drivin’ On” picks up where “Drivin’ Wheel” left off in terms of dynamic swagger that’s also prominent in the brass-bristling “Let Me Love You Baby” with its twin set of six-string fireworks. Yet the rather brief, if effervescent, reading of “How Many More Years” again stresses the British-American link of the collective’s creative method, and this piece’s philosophy is carried over to the balladry of “Time Slips Away” and the chug of “Black Days & Blue Nights” which are handclaps-enhanced for stronger emphasis on all things temporal – and eternal, the elegant update of B. B. King’s “She’s Dynamite” proving as much.
As the veterans put it here, their current proposition is a win-win: well worth the wait, “Sonic Mojo” must satisfy their fans longing to suffer this boogie forever and prolong the group’s glory.