Singer and harmonica man Mel Melton is a journeyman best known for his musical alliances with Sonny Landreth, Zachary Richard, C.J. Chenier and other champions of Deep South blues and zydeco. His work as a musician and a chef, though, has led to extended stays in Austin and Chicago, so it's not surprising to find him covering a lot of turf on his new album as well.
Yet nothing appears to suit his talents better than the Southwest Louisiana grooves that yield the liveliest tracks on "Mojo Dream." A blues harmonica may seem a poor substitute for an accordion when it comes time to launch a zydeco party, but Melton makes a strong case for the instrument by infusing "Two Legged Spider," "Cookin' Boy" and other cuts with a rippling and resonating tone. "Cookin' Boy," one of several original tunes on the album, also has Melton buttressing his spirited vocals with a horn section and C.J. Chenier squeeze-box, so there's plenty of Southwest Louisiana color and vitality evident in the mix. Another treat, "Lake Charles Girl," is a yearning Cajun-flavored waltz that boasts Melton's most soulful singing. In other settings, Melton looks to southern funk ("Pedal to the Metal") Bo Diddley beats ("Mojo Party") and modern blues ("River of Blues") for inspiration, lacing the tunes with some fine harp work and allowing guitarist Cyril Lance to shine.
Appearing Friday at Paddy Mac's.
To hear a free Sound Bite from Mel Melton and the Wicked Mojos, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8108. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)