Radiators fans will recognize one of the standouts on the Mo’ Jelly Band’s debut: “Out in the Woods” is an Ed Volker original that was never released, but made many a Rads set as a vocal feature for their ‘80s-’90s percussionist Glenn “Kul” Sears. Sears himself turns up to sing the Mo’ Jelly version (and to play on a few other tracks), and it’s close in sound and spirit to the versions on those old live tapes, rescuing a great song from oblivion.
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The Rads influence is clear elsewhere on the disc, with more of that slinky Fish Head groove on the rockers “Losin’ You” and “Null and Void” (coincidentally, the latter shares its title with another unreleased Rads song). But Mo’ Jelly also takes in Texas blues, Mardi Gras chants and even the Grateful Dead: The one other cover, “Tangled Up in Blue,” stays close to Dylan’s arrangement but adds a couple of stretched-out Garcia-style guitar solos. Mo’ Jelly’s members have all logged time as sidemen (for Allen Toussaint, Ernie K-Doe and James Rivers, among others) so they’ve got chops to spare—guitarist Johnny Price practically solos through the duration of “Losin’ You”—but the best moments put the songwriting forward.
Volker would likely appreciate their strongest original, “Ditch it Overboard,” whose lyric gets good mileage out of a fishing metaphor. And instead of raiding the Indian repertoire for a rousing Mardi Gras chant they write one of their own, “Tribute to the Big Chief.” Look past a couple of blues workouts toward the end of the disc—which probably sound great live but don’t quite catch fire here—and you’ve got a solid batch of swamp rock.