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BLACKTOP MOJO Pollen

By Pat Yukon, Roving Contributor
Sunday, April 14, 2024 @ 8:28 AM


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BLACKTOP MOJO
Pollen

Cuhmon/Sandhill Records




BLACKTOP MOJO:
Cross pollinating rock n' roll

These Texas Southern rockers have ensured their own hive health, by releasing Pollen, their fifth album. Poetic in its title, vocalist Matt James explains the significance of nature's reproductive powder and its relationship to this collection of new music. Quoted as saying - "In nature, pollen drops in the spring and signals new life and rebirth." After multiple listens, the title fits.

These gents who hail from Texas have definitely taken inventory of their hives. Matt's not afraid to put it all on the line. Soulfully serenading life's brutal truth, his retellings of life, love, loss and then some, never avoiding what can only be interpreted as recognizing some of his own accountability.

By breathing in Pollen's 11 songs, it's hard to imagine the emotional turmoil that served as the catalyst here. A sensitive vulnerability comes across this album from start to finish, something one would not associate with a group out of the Lone Star state. The opener, "The End is Gonna Come" brilliantly kicks things off with guitar riffs reminiscent of another Texas band whom I have shot concert photography multiple times for, WHISKEY MEYERS. Delivering a southern fried swamp swagger and chronological timeline that starts by singing about the end? It's similar to a Quentin Tarrantino narrative in that it needs to announce the end to accept it, available, only then to make forward progress in heartache.

The unintentional concept tells a secondary story. When something concludes, a rebirth of sorts will occur and so the cycle goes. "Weary I Roam" is the next track. It immediately burrows into your head. I am still unpacking its message because emotionally it connects like a sucker punch. "Weary I roam, Never fly away home". Lyrically, at first glance that line may be overlooked. To never fly away home? Metaphorically issuing a sense of urgency, longing, restlessness, not belonging to oneself and lacking the bravery to discover emotional freedom.

In order for me to represent myself and KNAC.COM with emotional authenticity, I feel responsible to share in my personal backstory. This will connect some dots. Stay with me...

My personal story arc involves COVID, near death, losing my marriage and the eventual diagnosis of what's been coined "long COVID" that circles back to the finite fragility of what was my life. Years after my initial battle, it still gaslights me daily, looming overhead not disguising it's truth, that at 45, my algebraic equation reads like this: I will always have more than 90% of my existence behind me at this point, leaving what life may have been by the wayside, dressed as an unrealized future. End stage heart function is the rearview mirror sticker that reads: "Objects are closer than they appear". I have become comfortable with this knowledge.

My situation holds water with this album, as it pertains to my life. I'm convinced it will do the same for anyone that listens intently. Simply because your origin may be self-inflicted (like some) or a byproduct of the perfectibility paradigm (like others), society has transformed our lives into the mockingbirds of the social media platforms we obsess over, leaving us wanting "likes" that validate what we've endured, skipping multiple "life" tracks ahead, just like Pollen does for continuity.

"Born To lose" falls into rotation. As the title suggests, it is a deep dive into the uncomfortable, a reality we acknowledge as "life". It plays out like a grunge classic turned southern rock staple. The rhythm section commands respect. Guitar work is nothing short of dominant and in control, leaving our storytellers' vocals to fend for themselves and shine. Calm and collected becomes agitated and aggressive, singing:

"Granddaddy said that there's two wolves inside your chest
And the one that survives is the one that you feed best
One of them loves everything that you fear
And the other one breathes for everything you hold dear"

It's a textbook display of the steps of grief acceptance, a common and relatable instance for anyone who can identify as being human. Music like this from BLACKTOP MOJO or anyone really, provides emotional solace with a promise. A promise that regardless how ugly, imperfectly perfect and harsh life (or love) can be, beauty will always accompany our walk through struggles as long as you remember: it's your own responsibility to seek it out!

I would be happy to go through the entirety of this album track by track. However, my experience with it went from listening for a review and then became an extremely personal journey of self-discovery. That is something I can not take away from their fans and our readers.

BLACKTOP MOJO is on fire with Pollen. It will build you up, tear you down and build you up again. Start to end or rather ending to a new beginning, in this musical timeline. It's equal parts enlightening and frightening. We have a numbered scale (1-5 stars) to rate records to. Pollen is a near impossible task since it will play tug of war on even the most hardened of hearts. Since 5 stars is the ceiling...

5.0 Out Of 5.0


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