One definition of passion is when you put more energy into something than is required. It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement; passion is ambition that is materialized into action, putting as much heart, mind, body and soul into something as is possible. New Jersey bluesman Vin Mott is an artist who should be judged on those terms. His sophomore album, Rogue Hunter, demonstrates his burning love of Chicago, Memphis, Texas, and New Orleans’ traditions of the blues together with an intensive study of harmonica performance and his songwriting skills achieved while attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston. The dozen original tracks (composed and arranged by Mott), recorded live off the floor, showcase his tight working band of Dean Shot on guitar, Steve “Pretty Boy” Kirsty on bass and drummer Matt Niedbalski at their fighting weight, ready to rumble.
The set opens with a hot blast of blues harp from Mott setting up the groove outlining his personal mantra “Car Troubles Made Me A Good Blues Singer.” He then digs further into the “bluesman” mystique on the sweet Chicago shuffle “Give Me Cornbread,” spelling out the sure fired way to his heart via southern downhome delicacy. The title track “Rogue Hunter” pays tribute to Bo Diddley by usurping his “Roadrunner” song form and mixing it with some Johnny Winter-inspired slide guitar from Dean Shot on a house rockin’ boogie. The quartet then launches into the newly minted barroom anthem “Ice Cold Beer,” with its shout-along chorus ready for a place in the pantheon of party songs. Mott plays with double entendre on the sweet country blues “Honey,” and Kirsty thumps hard on the upright bass on the jaunty tale of cockeyed optimism “Whistlin’ By The Graveyard.” Mott then turns the tragic tale of life among the abandoned factories and crime-filled streets of the Northern New Jersey 3rd Ward neighborhood into the slow blues soliloquy “Paterson Is Crumblin’.”
Shot sounds like a young Hubert Sumlin on the straight-ahead shuffle “I Got The Blues On My Mind,” with his ultra-clean riffing. The juke two beat, “Countin’ On Them Chickens,” dishes out folk wisdom on a bed of hot licks. The sentimental 12/8 blues “Fire To Your Flame,” features sweet harmonies and sensitive harmonica lead on a Sam Cooke-styled swinger. Mott brings his own Faustian petition to the crossroads on the spooky blues dirge “Please, Mr Devil,” freely offering his soul in trade for diabolical favors and mastery over the harmonica.
The reverb soaked “Greaser” closes out the album, borrowing heavily from a Link Wray power chord instrumental and adding heavy blues harp to the surf rock classic. This raw and stirring album, Rogue Hunter, further exemplifies Vin Mott’s enthusiasm for authentic blues sound.