THE MYSTIX – MIGHTY TONE
2012 – Mystix Eyes Records
With the talent contained in this band they really should be a household name by now. The fact that they aren’t says little about them but everything about the music industry in which stars are manufactured rather than having ‘paid their dues,’ something the musicians in this tremendous ‘supergroup’ have been doing for a very long time. In many ways it is understandable. Any band
that has strong elements of blues in their music is never going to be more than a cult band in the days when feeling and believability comes way down the list
of what is necessary to ensure being signed by the big record companies who have the money to manufacture success. It would be nice if they realized that sometimes signing the ‘finished article’ and promoting them might actually give the company more credibility, although I’m not naïve enough to belive that is ever going to happen! Rant over, so back to this quite addictive roots album!
This tremendous band are all hugely talented ‘veterans’ of roots music and are based in the Boston, Massachusetts area, with the list of people and bands they have supported far too numerous to mention here, so check their website if you wish. They are Jo Lily on vocals and guitars, Bobby Keyes, guitars, Marty ballou on bass, Tom West, keyboards and Marty Richards on drums.
Nothing they do is bland or sanitized. Everything is upfront and powerful but conversely contains plenty of subtlety. They don’t so much blend the various genres, it’s just that whilst songs are recognizably a blues or to a lesser degree country, their musical expertise and style are what creates the continuity despite the disparate elements. Fairly obviously they are not harmed at all by Jo Lily’s powerfully distinctive, pure gravelly vocals that are at the same time strong on melodicism
and full of expression. In many ways their take on country and blues, whilst in the main being modern and electrified, harks back to a time when the two genres were known as ‘hillbilly’ and ‘race music.’ It was a time when the only real separation was due to the colour of the skin rather than huge differences in the music played, in much the same way as there is as convincing an argument for
Jimmie Rogers as a blues musician, as there is for some of the other ‘hillbilly’ greats, such as Frank Hutchison and Dock Boggs. The Mystix take this old music and ignore the genre from which it supposedly came and put their own individual take on it. The beauty is that Jo Lily’ s own compositions of which there are three on this excellent album blend seamlessly with the old songs.
Whilst much of the album is steeped in a blues atmosphere the band are just as excellent when playing country, bringing their own inimitable sense of style to every performance. There are even a couple of songs on which there is a distinct jazz and vaudevillian flavor, again just as expertly played and probably more importantly, with a natural feel for the music and a raw emotive power, whatever genre the song happens to be rooted in. Album opener, the Jimmie Rodgers penned Blues
#4, is a case in point with their interpretation being a perfect blend that can just as easily be called a country song as it can a blues. The same can be applied, perhaps even more so, on Ernest Tubbs Mean Woman Blues on which Jo Lily’s raw emotive vocals inhabit the song with conviction, beautifully aided by some tremendous dobro and slide guitar playing. On Lily’s own Mighty
Love his vocal is very similar to a latter day John Lee Hooker, with the song being one that the great man could have made his own! The title song Mighty Tone, for me is the best song on an album of terrific songs and is again written by Jo Lily, which raises the question that despite the quality of the covers, with songwriting this good perhaps an album of his originals are a mouth watering prospect for the listener. It is a powerful country song that the late great Johnny Cash would probably have killed for! It’s played as if they can play in no other genre with some lovely dobro and fiddle giving it a pure country feel that in many ways harks back to the early honky tonk days. Tremendous song! Jelly
Roll has a convincingly strong 1920s (from whence it came!) jazzy vaudevillian atmosphere whilst Time Brings About A Change is an excellent slow moody, late night jazzy blues with some tremendous piano playing and Jo Lily’s atmospherically raw vocals and the moody organ and melodic guitar creating a memorable atmosphere. That is actually preceeded by a really good country song with twangy guitar and dobro in Tony Dyson’s I Believe I’ll Run On, highlighting the variety and enhancing the disparate elements that blend so incredibly well.
Some may be put off (as I have sometimes been in the past!) by the fact that there are only three original songs on this album but they will be the losers. Those originals are all excellent and in the case of the covers, The Mystix have virtually made them their own on this high quality and entertaining album of roots music.