Todd Park Mohr has long demonstrated his talents as a lyricist meshed with a pop sensibility that keeps his songs smart and to the point. On his band's new album Crimes of Passion, he gives listeners a multi-faceted experience of emotional yearning, despair, and confident swagger. Mohr and his rhythm section of Rob Squires on bass and Brian Nevin on drums spread their songwriting wings just a little bit further while keeping their musicianship on par with previous efforts. This time around, Mohr's guitar work is given more space between notes, contributing to a more atmospheric sound. It's a suitable backdrop for the stories Mohr wants to tell.
The trademark bluesman guitar treatment is evident on many of the tunes like "Love Transmission" and "Come On." Yet it's the softer ballads like "Drought of 2013," "Angela Dangerlove," and "Beauty Queen" that stand out on this album because songs like these are rare in the BHTM repertoire. What's more, the lyrics of these ballads are well worth reading for their effective storytelling.
On BHTM's current tour, they are playing many of these songs with the accompaniment of another Colorado resident, Hazel Miller, who belts out a soul ballad with the best of them. Some of these songs, such as the R&B influenced "ICU in Everything," seem like they were written with Hazel in mind. She doesn't perform on the CD but she takes the vocals in their live set (though many jam music fans will find the album version filtered through too much commercial production for their taste). During these concerts, you'll find a greater balance in the tempo of song selections. They can take the crowd up and down. This album gives them the choices to find that balance.
Elsewhere on the album, "Lost Child Astronaut" is a soft, unapologetic ode to Led Zeppelin (or maybe just Robert Plant) and feels like a good driving song. The final song, "Peacemaker Blues" is another ode, this time to Bob Dylan, replete with harmonica, vocal style, and reminiscent song title. It struck me as strange to come across two homage's to rock legends at the closure of an album but neither really rubbed me the wrong way, and I guess that's how homage's are supposed to be done.
Crimes of Passion is a next step for BHTM. It doesn't have as many jam-friendly songs as albums like Stratagem and Beautiful World, but it has the lyrical and emotional depth that long-time fans will appreciate.
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