Mojo Monkeys is guitarist Billy Watts, bassist Taras Prodaniuk, and drummer David Raven. All three sing, and Blessings & Curses shows them mining a swampy rock feel that sometimes crosses into country. The lyrics can be funny and/or poignant, but they’re always interesting, as is the playing.
Watts’ guitar usually forms the bed, as on the swampy funk of “Beating Dead Horses.” His work isn’t fancy, but it’s solid and sticks in your head. His soloing on “Californialabama” matches the lyric with a country feel, but, like many of the songs here, takes a surprising turn when his chicken pickin’ ends with a dive bomb a la Eddie Van Halen. Watts supplies appropriately spooky acoustic slide to the Tom Waits esque “Monkeythumb,” and gets slinky on the funky “Dirty Money,” where the groove is pushed along with octaves, chords, and singleline work. He shows his country-blues chops on “Baton Rouge,” with its repeating acoustic line and soaring slide guitar.
Rock-and-roll bands like the Mojo Monkeys are few and far between these days – versatile, soulful, and clever, both musically and lyrically.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Mar. ’11 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.