Here's a fine new offering from a man who cooks equally well on the stage or in the kitchen. Mel Melton's CD is possibly one of the last record sessions to come out of New Orleans before Katrina spread her terror, misery and devastation.
A native of North Carolina, Mel Melton fell in love with Louisiana in the late 1960s when he hooked-up with guitarist Sonny Landreth. He went on to work with Clifton Chenier and Zachary Richard and their Zydeco bands. Melton is recognized as one of the finest Zydeco style harmonica players. During the 1980s, he joined forces with C.J. Chenier to form a "blues/zydeco" outfit called Bayou Rhythm.
Melton has another side. He is an award-winning chef and culinary consultant who has authored Cajun cookbooks. By his own admission, he finds it impossible to separate the food and music of Acadia. Papa Mojo's Roadhouse
is much like a Cajun Gumbo - hot and tasty. Melton calls his brand of entertainment "Louisiana dance hall music." With the single exception of a Ray Charles 1959 cover "What I Say," the tunes are totally composed by the leader. From the first drum licks by Evans Nicholson on "Zydeco Razzle," the Wicked Mojos and their colorful leader serve up an energetic performance. The longest track on the album, "Papa Mojo," gives the listener a chance to appreciate Melton's harmonica prowess. Background singers Taz Halloween and Antonio Elmaleh help to make this track especially compelling. On "Juke Joints & Honkytonks," the band edges into a Cajun rock mood with a hot guitar solo by Ricky Olivarez.
"Ils Sont Parti" (And they're off!) couldn't be identified with anywhere but Louisiana. This barn- burner really hustles. "Bunkie Boogie" is a funky boogie-woogie item featuring some nice harp work by Melton and bass guitar by F.J. Ventre.
If the time has come to pick a favorite, I'll go with the joyous and jumpin' "Mama Mamou." The folks in Louisiana always offer visitors a "Lagniappe" (gift) and the Wicked Mojos throw in an unlisted tune featuring Melton's thirteen-year-old daughter, Laurel. The young woman sounds much like sixties folksinger Melanie. Papa Mojo's Roadhouse
is a happy blend of New Orleans down-home styles.