FOGHAT – Sonic Mojo (2023)
FOGHAT has had quite a stunning career. Having launched from Savoy Brown, Peverett, Earl, and Stevens joined forces with Rod Price to create the band that by 1972 with the release of their first album, would hit the enviable Gold status. Four albums later, their 1975 set – Fool For The City – would gain them Platinum status and provide for well-attended concerts. For a brief period of seven years, Foghat burned brightly.
1994 would see the return of the original four in The Return Of The Boogie Men, an album that featured 12 extraordinary songs as you would have expected Foghat to produce during their hey days. Since the passing of Peverett, Price, and MacGregor, and with only Roger Earl still interested, Foghat remains with a guided force.
On November 10, the Roger Earl-led Foghat will release a new album – ”Sonic Mojo”. It marks the 17th release from the band, a classic rock album with charged songs that include three written by Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown. The inclusion of Simmonds’ co-writes is particularly poignant as, sadly, the renown guitarist passed away shortly after.
“Drivin’ On”, the first single from the new album, is built around a deathless blues shuffle and features some incisive bottleneck work by American guitarist Brian Bassett (formerly of Wild Cherry and Molly Hatchet) who has been on board since 1999 and appears on half a dozen Foghat albums. It’s classic Foghat— party all night, boogie-till-you-disintegrate, blues rock straight from the masters.
This is the first of Kim Simmonds’ co-authored songs, and it’s an anthem for classic rockers everywhere. One can imagine that Mr. Earl, in particular, would have identified strongly with the sentiment this number expresses – rock on, forever and ever; the road never ends.
“Black Days Blue Nights” is another slice of maximum Foghat, with Scott Holt delivering a gritty vocal over a grinding, implacable beat. “I Don’t Appreciate You” is exactly what the title implies, though we’re left in the dark as to what the object of the song did to piss these guys off. Then again, when you’ve been on the front lines of the rock and roll wars for as long as the Foghats, you’re going to run into plenty of suitable targets. Holt and Bassett trade fills and brief solos on this one and Earl punctuates the choruses with energetic drum rolls.
“She’s A Little Bit Of Everything” – another Kim Simmonds co-write – takes a similar approach, with the same two-guitar attack and one of Holt’s strongest vocals. If this song had been released in the Seventies, Foghat would have had another chart-topper on their hands.
Foghat has always been noted for their distinctive covers of blues standards, and they’ve staked that rep on new versions of five such classics in this latest release. Willie Dixon’s much-covered “Let Me Love You Baby” gets a jump-blues treatment while Foghat gets back to its roots with a straight-up, no-chaser take on Howlin’ Wolf’s “How Many More Years” that features another fine performance from Holt.
B.B. King’s lively “She’s Dynamite” is reborn as a straight-ahead blues band number, minus the barrelhouse piano and honking tenor sax of the 1951 original.
Covering a song that’s been recorded by Elvis, the Big O, Vince Taylor, and Jerry Lee Lewis is a daunting task, but the Foggies find a way to breathe new life into that old warhorse “Mean Woman Blues”. Holt delivers his best vocal, exploring his strong upper register, while Bassett weaves lyrical licks, reminiscent of Peter Green and Mick Taylor, around the verses.
The album ends with a reverential take on Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” that benefits from some tasty slide work from Bassett.
Kim Simmonds provided the lyrics for “Time Sleeps Away”, and in many ways it’s the album’s centerpiece. The verses offer a philosophical reflection on the transitory nature of our lives, but it’s the hypnotic, chant-like repetition of the title phrase that will stick in your mind long after you’ve played through ‘Sonic Mojo’.
With this latest album, Roger Earl and his gang of rock and roll outlaws have brought Foghat’s trajectory full circle. After an incredible fifty-three years of rawkin’ and rollin’ and more personnel changes than a UK cabinet shuffle, these road warriors – old and new – can still sound fresh and exciting.
Time may slip away, but blues music is always relevant and always will be. Fans of British bluesy classic rock will find ”Sonic Mojo” a satisfying addition to their collections.
01 – She’s a Little Bit of Everything
02 – I Don’t Appreciate You
03 – Mean Woman Blues
04 – Drivin’ On
05 – Let Me Love You Baby
06 – How Many More Years
07 – Song for the Life
08 – Wish I’d Been There
09 – Time Slips Away
10 – Black Days and Blue Nights
11 – She’s Dynamite
12 – Promised Land
Roger Earl – drums
Scott Holt – vocals, guitar
Brian Bassett – guitar
Rodney O’Quinn – bass