Mojo Collins at his best — ‘New Gladitude’

By on September 19, 2018

Mojo Collins loves the blues, and he plays it as well as anyone. Not just anyone on the Outer Banks, but anyone. He really is that good.

In a career spanning more than 55 years, though, he’s picked up a lot of influences, and in New Gladitude, his latest recording, it all comes together.

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“It’s the marriage of cajun zydeco to North Carolina folk jazzy blues and rock. So you have two different cultures come together,” he said describing his most recent CD.

Recorded in New Orleans, the CD takes full advantage of some outstanding studio musicians and the result is a sound completely unlike any other recording he has made.

“I actually got to record that with Louisiana musicians that actually play in Storyville, that play in New Orleans, that play in Mardi Gras. It captured that essence of that culture and that sound that they get in there,” Collins said.

There is so much good music on this CD that it’s difficult to call any one track out. From the first notes of the title track, New Gladitude, it is apparent that Mojo is creating something special.

“I got a brand new gladitude,” he sings. “I’m feeling almost brand new…”

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The guitar work is crisp and confident with the saxophone of Pat Breaux framing the melody and Mojo’s guitar lead creating the sense of joy that music can bring.

The Cajun influence really seems to come together in, Cajun Funk, an instrumental piece with a distinctly jazzy feel, with some great sax work and a driving drum beat from Frank Kincel. The song has layers of great music happening and it also highlights just how good Collins is on guitar.

What really seems to make New Gladitude stand out, though, is how Collins builds on his blues roots, creating sounds that are true to that tradition yet take on their own distinctive sound.

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There are a number of tracks that have a sound reminiscent of swing-era music, combining a very bluesy feel with a standup bass and jazz chords.

Love Has Made a Man out of Me highlights Collins on acoustic guitar and his vocals which are  strong with a perfect touch for the music.

As much as the music creates the feel of the song, the words seem to blend flawlessly with the arrangement.

Love has made a man out of me,
Took my heart and set my soul free,
Got no worries
Life is a breeze
Lord she shone love down on me…”

By his own reckoning, Collins has written a few hundred songs over the years and with that background, he’s gotten pretty good at turning a phrase, and that skill crops up again and again.

Blue Eyes Crying, the last track on the CD, is an memorable cross between blues and swing. It’s a love song, but what makes the lyrics stand out is how it touches on Collins’ roots in the blues and the swing feeling of the song.

When I’ve done you wrong and
It turns into a blues song
And those blue eyes start to cry…

The CD also highlights Collins musical versatility. He is known—at least on the Outer Banks—for how good he is on guitar, but guitar is just one of many instruments he plays.

For a number of years, when he was trying to make it in San Francisco, he played keyboards as much as guitar, and that skill comes to the fore Living in the Spirit.

Over the years, Collins has become a man of deep faith and the song is a testimony to that faith. The song is unlike any other on the recording, relying on heavy full organ chords with saxophone playing counterpoint to the melody. The result is a choral, church-like feel to the music.

Watching Collins when he’s performing, his guitar work can seem so effortless that how good he really is can be lost. If there was ever any doubt how good he is, listen to Raynor Shine, written for his grandson Bo Raynor, who is beginning his journey in the pro surfing ranks.

An instrumental piece, it features Bo’s grandfather on acoustic guitar. Beautiful, wistful, perhaps lyrical, the song evokes the beauty of the ocean and waves.

The CD has 13 tracks and the inevitable question is, “Is there a favorite?”

Subjective and perhaps dangerous since everyone is going to have their own opinion. But as a personal favorite Bop Bop She Bop stood out because of how brilliantly and seamlessly Collins merges styles of music.

There is a bit of the 1950s doo-wop sound — just think of the title to understand that. But then he takes that combination blues/swing sound that he has been using throughout the CD to create a song that is at once completely familiar yet truly unique.

A number of the tunes have been sitting around gathering dust for some time, Collins mentioned while discussing the CD.

“Some of these songs were written in my 30s and I just never recorded them,” he said. “For one reason or the other they just slipped through the cracks.”

Collins is now 74 and recovering from a May heart attack, New Gladitude is the best CD he has recorded in some time. It may even be his best, something he reflected on in discussing the recording.

“I was so elated that I was able to get this done. I’m not saying it’s going to be a last, but if it is it’s not a bad epitaph,” he said.

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