Sometimes a new approach is needed, a spark of creativity that turns expectations and long-standing approaches on their ear to produce fantastic new results. Sojo Mojo is the brainchild of a creative trio – actor and musician Steven Bauer has teamed with songwriter Jim Petersen and multi-instrumentalist John Burke to launch Sojo Mojo, a labor of love attempting to circumvent some of the common failings of veteran acts. Believing that vocal staleness is the primary cause of artistic stagnancy in popular music, Sojo Mojo plans to utilize the talents of assorted female vocalists, anchored by featured talent Gabriella Kreuz, so that the demands of each new song are addressed in inventive and bracing ways. Much like each individual, musical creations come with their own unique set of demands to be met and the creative brain trust behind Sojo Mojo want their songs to show off a widely varied approach befitting that idea. The first two songs from Sojo Mojo, “Something to Smile About” and “Just Don’t Ever Tell Me”, wonderfully embody the concept and are sure to find an audience.
Kreuz’s effervescent voice raises the already fine “Something to Smile About” several more notches on anyone’s likability meter. It’s a good match for the relaxed guitar playing and easy, amiable percussion, but she sets herself apart when she hits each chorus and lights the song up with a brief though memorable displaying of her pyrotechnic vocal power. It’s a song built perfectly to serve as the project’s recording debut and, while the song certainly wants you to get up and move, the straight-ahead yet coherent simplicity of the lyrical content gives Kreuz something meaningful to sing about rather than just wailing on in sentence fragments like too many other of her peers. The streamlined efficiency that Bauer, Petersen, and Burke impose on the project gives it clear direction and recruiting this particular singer seems like the first of what will hopefully be a number of triumphs.
“Just Don’t Ever Tell Me” goes at relationships with biting soul/R&B edge. The bass and guitar alike have a strong bent to the groove, particularly the former, but this never plays out like some hollow exercise. The musicianship and songwriting alike are top notch here and Kreuz gives another great performance, this time playful and mischievous. The same high gloss production values defining the earlier track are impressed upon this one as well. Sojo Mojo is out of the gate fast with these two singles. It’s a clear sign that, despite using a variety of singers in the end, the songwriting quality of the project will remain uniformly high and obviously suited to the strengths of the artist on hand. They chose a fine singer for their first release under this banner and she owns both tunes with considerable skill and authority.