As I am amongst friends here, I’ll be honest. I was 99% certain I was going to review this record when I saw the picture of the cover that came with the email.
“Son Of The South”. The name alone evokes all kinds of things and that’s before you factor in Mohead himself. The very epitome of the troubadour. Ok, yeah, sign me up for that.
Ever since I was a little kid and heard Skynyrd for the first time I’ve loved southern rock – and that’s before I even knew what Southern Rock was.
So, once we’ve established that a) I am perfectly prepared to judge books by their covers (in a manner of speaking) and b) I am pre-disposed to like any southern type that comes my way, all that was left was to listen to the eight tracks.
And they confirmed everything that I thought was going to happen did actually take place. “Son Of The South” is wonderful.
But it is not without its surprises. For one thing – and cards on the table here, because there’s no point in lying about these things, I wasn’t aware of John Mohead before – its less country than I was expecting. Instead “Without A Melody” comes with a soul-filled Muscle Shoals sound.
The title track is more the celebration of the southern life that I was imagining. I’ve never been to the South of the USA, but feel I know it from the romanticised way that my favourites sing about it. This is no different: “I got mud in my blood and songs in my soul” offers Mohead here. “the sweet magnolias bring me home….”
The organs are well and truly to the fore in “Seen It All” and with the drum beat too, it recalls “Hush”, but actually, as it stretches out, it becomes something that JJ Grey might do.
His songwriting has been highly praised since his debut in 1995, and the incredible use of words in “Amsterdam” is probably an example of why. Dealing with a trip to Europe, this is not just another road song. Any lyric that involves rhyming “a little later” with “microwave potatoes” must surely find a home on this website and that comes before arguably the best line on travel this side of Bill Bryson. “Nobody spoke my language” opines Mohead. “the customs man was eating a sandwich…..” All of which verges on the genius. So much so that the fact the song is a gem akin to The Faces “Ooh La La” goes almost unnoticed at first.
“Blue Canoe” is another choice cut. Infused first with the gleeful relaxed air of summer and also with an Eagles-esque gift for melody, “Missin’ You” on the other hand, is a melancholy take on life on the road, complete with some mighty slide guitar licks, like Will Hoge at his best, it is just another example of the light and shade involved here.
A cover of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927” it in the same lineage as “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live” and the like, while the record never sounds blusier than it does on “She Won’t Be Home” and the hobo that always exists in these songs is centre stage.
There is a deep-rooted sadness here, but there is such a range of styles and emotions on offer that “Son Of The South” will surely find a home wherever people like great music – because that, when you boil it all down, is what it is.