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MOHAVISOUL—HOMETOWN BLUES—Mannequin Vanity Records, No Number.

This San Diego band takes its name from the Mojave Desert in California combined with their brand of bluegrass “soul.” Members are Randy Hanson (mandolin), Mark Miller (guitar), Orion Boucher (bass), and Jason Weiss (banjo). Guests artists include John Mailander (fiddle), and Will Jaffe (resonator guitar).

Songwriting is split between Miller and Hanson who also share the lead vocals. Lots of good songs here including “Gettie Up,” “On My Way,” “Stay Tuned,” “Until I Go,” “Dirty Shame,” and “Dozen Roses.” Other songs include “Lay Your Needle Down,” “Drinker’s Lament,” “Ferguson Fight,” “Contrary Lovers,” and the title-cut “Hometown Blues.” Instrumentally, the band is quite good, as demonstrated in many of the arrangements with strong banjo and fiddle performances. The vocals are out front from both Miller and Hanson with harmony blends from Boucher and Weiss. This is fairly nice outing for the group. (www.mohavisoul.com)

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San Diego based MohaviSoul has released their 3rd album called “Hometown Blues” on Mannequin Vanity Records. Randy Hanson and Mark Miller are established bluegrass writers and have combined their efforts to come up with one of the best contemporary bluegrass albums.
Band Members include Mark Miller (guitar, vocals,) Randy Hanson (Mandolin, Vocals), Orion Boucher (Bass, Vocals), Jason Weiss (banjo, Vocals) and features by John Mailander(Fiddle), and Will Jaffe (Dobro). The band is able to blend all types of bluegrass, that include traditional, newgrass and original material. It is bluegrass from the soul and harkens back to the origins of bluegrass music blended explicitly with a contemporary sound. Their Outstanding playing on all tracks tell they love what they do.” On My Way” best exemplifies each player solo instrumentation and ability to blend their unique sound. The song “Until I Go” energizes those listening to want to get up and dance till the morning light. It is a great blend of roots and newgrass. If You get a chance
to see them in concert do so. You will not be disappointed. They make you feel right at home.

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MohaviSoul takes its name from the Mohave desert of California and in the five years of its existence, they’ve developed their own blend of bluegrass soul. The band consists of the songwriters Mark Miller on guitar and vocals, Randy Hanson on mandolin and vocals and Jason Weiss on banjo and vocals, Orion Boucher on bass and vocals, Dan Sankey on violin and vocals, and will Jaffe on dobro. Also appearing is guest John Mailander on fiddle. The songs have an instrumental tower of power with banjo and fiddle in the forefront. “Gettie Up” is a tribute to early pioneers and their fortitude to get going and succeed. “Hometown Blues” opens with a flurry of banjo notes as the singer looks back: “home is deep in my heart,” “On My Way” is another return to home song, and “Contrary Lovers” offers some insights into the lyrics in opposition: “you do when you don’t.” The nostalgic “Lay Your Needle Down” references the old fashioned record player and the yesterdays when you made pictures inside your head. One song stands out as a contemporary commentary: “Ferguson Fight.” The song focuses on the riots over the police shootings and advises the people to “take on the fight, but don’t you go and steal the night.” MohaviSoul has strong potential, but needs more vocal and tempo variety.

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You may be inclined to scrutinize the information on the sleeve of MohaviSoul’s new album Hometown Blues to see if any of these hail from regions Southern Appalachian or not. They certainly don’t sound like anything you’d normally expect to hear coming from San Diego’s surf–and sun obsessed vacuity. Neither laboriously bleak nor overly sunny, these are stories about the simple ironies and unexpected pains and pleasures a life brings us. MohaviSoul is a bluegrass band, storytellers of woe and joy and love found and lost as their heroes seek fortune and adventure and a better chance around the bend. Formed in Ocean Beach, the beach area’s last outpost of the ’60s idea of being distinct and true to one’s one Thing, the interplay of guitars, fiddle, and dobro are bittersweet counterparts to the plaintive vocals of guitarist Mark Miller and mandolin player Randy Hansen, both of whom are also MohaviSoul’s principal songwriters.
The tunes are sufficiently rustic and soulfully rendered, a sequence of tales reminiscent of depression and dustbowl days; long, dry highways; train whistles; large regrets; and small joy. There is a strong, persistent sense that one shoulders their burden and moves onward, stoic, strong, accepting of what one has been handed throughout their adventures before and afterward. There is, as well, a remarkable lack of the pessimism one would expect from a genre predicated on a world view that borders on the bleak and despairing. The allure of bluegrass and mountain music and the appeal of Americana music in the largest sense are the tales of indomitable spirit and the willingness of the heroes to persevere and greet the next day, lessons learned, with a song and a strong, purposeful stride.
Superbly backed by the interlocking and buoyant mandolin from Hanson; the banjo work of Jason Weiss; and the subtly bittersweet colors, tones, and accents given us by special guests John Mailander on fiddle and Will Jaffee on dobro, the songs of Miller and Hanson are clear and poetically plain spoken, oftentimes declaring that whoever is listening to the varied tales of hardship, heartache, and the lot needs to heed the simplest advice: don’t sweat the chump change. “Gettie Up,” sexy as it sounds but more practical than it is randy, tells us to get on the beam when life becomes the trudge, while “Stay Tuned,” a spritely, rollicking ramble, simply and subtly warns us to be pleasantly surprised when different and better outcomes result from what at first appears to be a grim and final dead end. Mohavisoul’s music is swiftly seductive, full of foot tapping, shoulder moving tempos, simple music accomplishing profound emotional effects. Hometown Blues is a genuinely moving contribution to the new roots music.