Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mo Leverett: Kings Road Album Review.

Mo Leverett
Album: King’s Road
Release April 23, 2013

Genre: Singer songwriter,  guitar based folk with a southern accent. 

Quick Spin:  Velveteen troubadour and gypsy tour-guide, Mo Leveret, takes us on a road trip through Dixieworld to the Celestial City, with a stop at a ‘tavern,’ a glade, and an altar on the way, enjoining us to glory in our weakness as we fall into those Mighty arms. Or something like that.

So Here I am… cruising around in the car listening to Mo’s newest release.  I have expectations for this album that I will reveal in a bit….but for now, I am smiling, tapping my foot and taking in the warmth, the production, Mo’s curmudgeonly-growl,  tempered by cheer. 

Yes! this is  the better news I was longing to hear.  I am smiling and emoting.   If these are the blues, I wan’t em.  Track 11 wets my eyes.  Good tears.  Then I hit track 12.

Whoa…..I must pull over my car.  Stop. 

Cause I might not see otherwise.
My heart just bottomed out.
Talk about a truckload of emotion. Mo just dumped it. Can a man of his age even do that with his voice?

I feel this. And I am right there with you, holding her hands as she looks back at us through teary eyes… affirming, saying yes….. (Okay, that sounded weird, but I mean Man, you really drew me in.)

A couple years back Mo Leverett released what must be one of the sadder albums in the history of the world. It’s Alright was a raw offering in which he offered up his mangled heart, as his marriage of many years shut down. The transparent preacher took us on a difficult ride through a darker universe of things gone wrong, trilling desperate prayers and with some surprising celebration. You can read my full review of that essential album here.

In some ways, Kings Road is a sequel. You need not listen to “It’s Alright” to enjoy the King’s Road, but this continues the journaling of a man who’s greatest gift is offering his unvarnished soul - direct from heart to mike.

As is, I follow Mo on Facebook. I know that since he took to the single life Mo has struggled. He lost a home, a pastorate, a wife. He’s been running around the south, low on fuel, hawking old CDs as coaster plates, trying most anything to earn a buck or score a gig. I know too that Mo is man of prayer. He offered quite a few of them up in the way of Facebook statuses.

Indeed a short survey of Mo’s Fb statuses’ reveal a man who loves his kids, a good smoke, a good burger, LSU and the Saints. Then, not too very long ago, we learned that a new love entered Mo’s life. Now it may be that in the wake of past pains, or out of deference for others, Mo didn’t live this love too strongly before our eyes. We knew she was there, we knew that Mo was finding nourishment in a love that was putting balm on his heart. We even learned her name. But seems much of the romance was a thing kept off of FB. Then we learned of wedding.

With that knowledge I fully expected Mo to offer some new sounds.

I was right.

In the same way that Mo’s last album was not only or chiefly about divorce, this album is not chiefly about marriage. However, that new medicine in Mo’s life colors the whole. Here’s some fragments from a song leading up….

When cupboards are empty and barren of food
If colleagues abandon and friends are untrue
Then you’ll be the one that I’m holding to,
cause I will be married to you.

If clouds full of rain descend in a storm, 
If winds tear asunder our beautiful home. 
We will not face the tempest alone, 
cause I will be married to you.

If all of our treasures are few
If troubles abound and renew
Our love and our faith will carry us through.
And I will be married to you.

For rich or for poor, for better or worse,
when less becomes more and I sometimes curse…

The way that you are is what I would choose
No matter what happens, don’t be confused,
I’ll take all your warts and faults and tattoos
Cause I will be married to you.

A couple weeks ago Mo posted that he was about to do a 10PM concert, and that it was kind of late to sing depressing songs. But we have called his bluff. King’s Road is simply soaked in grace and light and a certain tenderness… might we even call it myrrh? 

 I’m not gonna go into a point by point breakdown of the lyrics and sound. If you know Mo, you should already want this album, and, if you don’t let me be direct. Your soul needs this food.

Even so, here are a few notes to wet your appetite.

First Impression. Opening track: Production: Wow. I figure Mo would be putting this album out on a shoe-string. But Man, does that opening sax cook with gas. Then I thought… “Did Mo really hire Bruce Hornsby to play piano?” Well, no, but the piano is just that good. The slide guitar and accordion too. Not only do his musician friends deliver, they know how NOT to over-deliver.

One of my continual beefs is that so much of today’s music is artificial, overcooked, or just over played. But the music here is both excellent and human. I asked Mo about the pianist. (actually there are two.)

Mo writes: “The keyboard players are both top shelf Nashville session guys who have taken a liking to my music and poured their hearts into the project, for which I am humbled. I have rarely ever paid enough for production - it's just too hard to recoup - but Ahmande Mondo Grimes and my friend Greg Doles have always labored beyond the call of duty to squeeze more out of a dollar than I deserve.”

2). Humor… Mo has a habit of engaging in self-depreciating humor. This line cracked me up: I write the songs that make the young girls cry... I write the songs the whole world don't want to buy.

Speaking of which. Mo’s cover Art. We know Mo likes cigars. But now, we find him boldly presented on the cover looking like a young Fidel Castro, with a brick of smoldering leaves in his mouth. He is almost certainly NOT going to see his album in your typical Christian Bookstore. I don’t know if Mo ever sold in such places before. Heck, I don’t know if Christian bookstores even exist anymore. But I know Mo is actively working to make sure he doesn’t make it past the tobacco censors.

3) Death to Pretention. Mo kills it.

3b Bunny trail. As is, I have not written many music reviews in the last years. No time. But to my surprise, this (Wood between) blog gets a lot of hits, even when I don’t write. And Mo’s last album has more hits than any of my other reviews. Really. That is because Mo keeps re-reading it;)

4) Ministry. Even without the pulpit, I figure Mo still has the gift. But what this album isn’t -- is preachy. Mo has a way of delivering spiritual food as a fellow traveler. Indeed much of this album runs “Horizontal” , But there is a deeper current underneath that weaves throughout and wells in closing tracks. God is walking with us through the shadows…. And guess what, God is not just going to erase our scars, He will adorn them with diamonds, Cause those are the things he used to make us poor in spirit, and alive with need.

5 ) Beauty Simply put, Mo responds deeply to beauty. (Friend him on Facebook, and read his routine poetry, especially now that he lives on the edge of a river/bay. I can already feel that water reaching into Mo’s subconscious.)

6) Florida. Simply a gorgeous melody. And what’s weird. This song shares certain tune elements with a song from his last album. Only there, those notes were desperate and painful, here - similar melodic line borders on quiet rhapsody.

7) The astonishing, dismantling, and life altering thing called Grace.

I sometimes think we treat grace like an “easy” word… as if it means “being let off the hook.” But Holy Spirit Bbible grace is no such thing. Grace can be one of the most destructive forces in the universe, and comes at incredible cost, both to our self-life and God. Mo is a champion of that kind of grace. Over the last days I have been milling over the very riddle of Grace. It seems that Grace is something given to rebellious people, which in turn puts them in better stead than if they have never sinned… yet the sin and its destruction is beyond being justified. Or something like that. Mo is inviting us into a world where we having nothing in ourselves to offer God. We are destitute, deranged, defiled. Or as Mo recently posted: “Moralism is but a proverbial miniature fig leaf - the gospel is the Father's finest robe after a long hot shower."

8) Finally: The sovereignty of God.

I don’t always understand what it means or how it works, but Mo is affirming full force that God is in the storm, even the storm that would undo us.

There are probably only two or three albums in the last years, that if you missed, your life would be altered for the worse. But this is how much I think of Mo’s music. If you miss this, your life will be poorer, you will be less complete as a person and your soul will miss vital nutrients.

Where to find Mo/ King's Road

Justice Road Records

I Personally recommend that you buy direct from Mo, or through Justice Road Records, but Amazon and Itunes can be used to listen to his sounds.


Or send a check for 15 bucks to  Mo directly: 

8416 Concord Blvd W
Jackson Fl. 32208


  1. I have read both of your reviews of Mo's music and I find them some of the most insightful and entertaining reading I've done on the internet. It's not saying too much seeing as that I don't do much reading on the internet and also the internet is a poor place to find quality writing. That's beside the point though, I wanted to thank you and encourage you to continue this blog. I love Mo's music and after reading your post I have already purchased a copy. Thanks again and I hope you enjoy writing as much as I enjoy reading what you have written.

  2. Ed, that means the world. Thank you.