Mojave by Stuart Pearson // Album Review
If you’re into Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen or Johnny Cash, then I invite you to check out the brand new album by Stuart Pearson called ‘Mojave’.
Like A House With Broken Windows
Stuart Pearson has dedicated an entire page on his website to this album and each song has a little info about it displayed on the page. Pearson also mentions the instruments that are featured in each song. So, for example, this song features a mandolin, acoustic guitars and bass, a tremolo guitar and more! The song actually starts with a very catchy acoustic guitar riff that definitely reminds me of Johnny Cash, which is great to hear. As soon as the words ‘Like a house with broken windows’ are sung, I’m somehow getting images from Tarantino movies flashing in my mind and it dawns on me that this entire album (I’ve listened to it several times now) is more suitable for a Tarantino movie than the actual soundtrack that was chosen for the films! As the song progresses and more instruments join in, it just gets better and better. While I do get dark country vibes from this, the mandolin and tremolo guitar make it sound a little bit folky to me, which is another plus point.
Down The Ravine
The first thing I notice here is the strong percussion aspect of this song, since it includes pots, pans, a bathtub, a picture frame, and more! It is rare for me to say this, but I have not heard something like this before and I love hearing it! This song also features guitars, bass and vocals, but the thing that catches my attention is definitely the percussion. I don’t even want to call them ‘drums’, because there is so much more going on. Another thing that grabs my attention is the song-writing skill that is present here. I love the ending part of the song where the following lines are sung:
There are stories of orgies of darkness and light
Of the sainted and the obscene.
Where the souls get sold to the devil's delight.
He comes collectin' down the ravine.
Dragging The Lake (on the Day of the Dead)
A while ago, there was a very popular book series and television show about Vampires and Werewolves called ‘True Blood’. This track really reminds me of that show. This song features percussion, harmonica, mandolin, organ, bass, a mournful New Orleans funeral horn procession and a ‘drunk’ trombone. At this stage I am blown away by the versatility of this artist. I also really like the whispery vocals on this track, they give it a spooky vibe. This album is not only perfect for film or TV series (as a soundtrack), it is also perfect for a Halloween party! Taking a look at the official ‘about me’ page https://www.stuartpearsonmusic.com/about I am surprised to see that this artist has not done any television or film music yet, however, I am not surprised to see that Pearson ran a musical in Los Angeles for a brief period of time.
Are They Digging Your Grave (or are they digging mine?)
This song features a mandolin, banjo, guitar, portuguese guitarra, dulcimer, bass, piano and drums. The song starts out with a nice guitar melody and hauntingly beautiful vocals, as well as lyrics. When the words of the title are sung, this song really starts to impress me. Especially when the drums kick in when Pearson sings ‘or are they digging mine’ at about 30 seconds into the song. While the tempo is quite slow, this track is very dramatic and the storytelling aspect of this artist is outstanding. I love how the line ‘Are they digging your grave, or are they digging mine?’ is repeated and each time it gets more intense, at least that’s how I perceive it.
You Don’t See Me (Jimmy Crack Corn)
This track starts off almost bluesy sounding to me, perhaps because of the organ. However, once the vocals kick in the Dark Americana genre really shines through. Once again, this is such an interesting mix to listen to and this track is different from the previous ones as well. I would describe this track as hauntingly beautiful, with very few sounds from the instruments played, compared to the previous songs on this album. The songwriting skills are top notch here as well, I love the line ‘you don’t see me, but I’m with you just the same’. At the time of writing these lines, this song has the most plays on Spotify (almost 30k). I am not surprised by this, however, I don’t think this is my personal favourite song on this album. More on that later.
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly be surprised for the sixth time in a row, I begin to hear a didgeridoo accompanied by drums! This song also features a jaw harp, fiddle and more, but the highlight for me here is certainly the didgeridoo! At this stage of the album it dawns on me that each song I’ve listened to so far almost has more creative energy than entire albums by many other artists I’ve listened to this year! I previously reviewed an award winning classical composer and he really raised the bar, to a point where I wasn’t sure if I’d review anything else on that same level this year, but this just outstanding! Obviously in a different way, a much darker way, since this is basically gothic country music, but my point remains. This is a pleasure to listen to if you’re into the genre for sure!
Having just mentioned how this album is so ‘dark’ and gothic country/Dark Americana sounding, this track is definitely not like that in terms of guitar melody at least. The lyrics are a different matter. The words are sung by Hunter Lowry and the vocals on this are certainly very strong. I love the following lines:
I took on the burden of saving your soul
When I took on your ring and your name
But the blackness embraces me gently
I’m sure that you know and agree
I previously mentioned how impressed I am by the range of instruments used by Pearson, I am perhaps even more impressed by the fact that there is only a guitar and vocals present on this track. The lyrics really cut deep into the listeners mind (if they are paying attention) and I am certainly starting to think this could be my personal favourite song on this entire album.
You Never Really Know
On the website Stuart Pearson says the following about this song: "You Never Really Know" - sort of a treatise on come-uppance. Never take for granted the things you didn't know you were taking for granted.
I’d call this a pessimists anthem. The interesting thing here is that this song does feature elements that I’ve heard in some of the previous songs on this album, but the thing that makes this song unique is the vocals and especially the backing vocals. The background vocals make this song sound very grand and powerful. I love the following lines in this:
You never really know
If there’s madness in the method
And was that madness overdue
When you’re reading between the lines
If the lines are really reading you
Tomorrow’s Gonna Hunt You Down
‘Tomorrow’s Gonna Hunt You Down’ is a much welcomed twist on all those classic songs where the singer/s basically whine about something that happened in the past. This song may focus on the future, but the awesome electric guitar in this will certainly keep you in the present. There is also an incredible fiddle solo in the middle of the song that is beautifully played. At times it almost sounds classical to me, as the playing is so advanced, but the overall theme is very gothic country once again. Having said that, this song (like all the other tracks) is totally unique on this album in the sense of it actually rocking. The drums are very rock influenced on this, which is great to hear.
Dance Skeletons Dance
The album ends with the track ‘Dance Skeletons Dance’ and the drums on this (kind of) continue with the rock vibe from the previous tune. As the title suggests, you could indeed dance to this, I can certainly see this being played at a large party and people having a great time dancing to this. But as I mentioned earlier, I can also really see this music and part of a movie or series. Listening to these last 2 tracks on this album makes me appreciate the drums a lot, the drummer is doing a great job in both of these songs. I also like how the energy level is raised in these last 2 songs and the album ends with a bang, leaving the listener wanting to hear more music by Pearson.
Favourite Song of the album ‘Mojave’ by Stuart Pearson
At this stage of the review I usually pick a favourite song. The one track that surprised me the most and still blows me away several days later is track number 7 called ‘One Cut’. The guitar is just so simple, yet very well played and recorded. The singing by Hunter Lowry is so sweet, yet the actual lyrics are so dark (which is a great combination, in my opinion). I could listen to this all day. I always love it when artists achieve a lot with very few instruments and this is definitely the case here.
My favourite song that is just by Stuart Pearson (having listened to this album several times now) is actually the final song ‘Dance Skeletons Dance’. This song really rocks and it’s a great mixture of gothic country and rock. I also love that it features incredible solos and it really raises the energy level and ends the album on a high note.
Final thoughts of the album ‘Mojave’ by Stuart Pearson
This entire album is an absolute pleasure to listen to for me! I am amazed by the creativity in terms of instruments used, songwriting skills, storytelling etc. The mixing and mastering on this is fantastic as well. The one thing I would love to see is music videos for at least one of these songs. There are actually several music videos for songs from previous albums on this page here: https://www.stuartpearsonmusic.com/videos. I really appreciate it when artists create videos for their music, so I’m hoping this will be the case for at least one of the songs on this album as well.
I have to say that I always check out the online presence of each artist I listen to, in order to get a sense of how serious they are about their music and how much detail they put into their website and social media presence. I’m happy to say that the web presence of Stuart Pearson is spectacular! He even dedicated an entire page on his website to the album here: https://www.stuartpearsonmusic.com/about-mojave . Not only does the page feature very interesting information about the album and each song on it, it also features some awesome photos that really match the vibe of this album.