Mike Stevens & Raymond McLain Old Time Mojo

They boast "pushing bluegrass boundaries,” and sure, the album has a transcendent quality. Stevens and McLain deliver the goods like few around the fire can. The album was recorded live off the floor through vintage microphones and pre-amps. They’re loyal to the old time sound, but they don’t let it limit them. Stevens’s harmonica is articulate and animated to the point of absurdity. His innovative style drives the record. McLain’s banjo is in duel mode the whole time, but his tenor voice is pure tenderness. By turns, the boys warm your soul and wear holes in your dancing shoes. Much of the "mojo” on this album is drawn from the public domain files. From the spiritually rich "I Am a Pilgrim,” to the lonesome "In the Pines,” Stevens and McLain interpret old favourites and make them new again. Their rendition of Chuck Berry’s "Johnny B. Goode” sounds right at home in its honky-tonk adornments and stands out among the giants, though it’s too bad it’s the only cover. And true, there were times I longed for more grit, more sorrow; the music is so damn happy even when it’s sad. But Stevens and McLain are here for a good old time, and you can hardly blame them, the mojo’s got ‘em. (Borealis)