Prime example of the term Americana as a melting pot

Wolfgang Giese

Today we are talking about a band that few people are familiar with although it was founded back in 2002 – The Mystix; singer Jo Lily and guitarist Bobby B. Keyes from Los Angeles, who is also active in jazz circles, were responsible for forming the group. Subsequently, the group grew and evolved thanks to musicians who hung around studios in Boston and other tour members who toured with bands and artists like Peter Wolf, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, and the North Mississippi All Stars.

As a matter of fact, The Mystix is a prime example of the term Americana as a melting pot, an excellent mix of rock, blues, country, soul, gospel, and other trace elements of American music history. Music is brought to life by Jo Lily’s striking vocals, with that rough, deep-throat, smoky, and raspy voice, and by the twin guitars of Bobby B. Keyes and Duke Levine. This along with the perfectly coordinated rhythm section, which always provides a reliable background for soloists and other featured artists. Those people include illustrious individuals such as Charlie McCoy, B. J. Cole, and Luther and Cody Dickinson.

They all join forces on the seventh album Can’t Change It, making sure a striking and very pleasant, touching sound is created that is very powerful and very loose and relaxed. The Band comes to mind, but I can also hear traces of some smooth songs by Dire Straits. (“Let’s Get Started”) Yes, Can’t Change It is an album title of format; after all, why try to change that mood?

Here, you fall back on the roots, uninhibited and with ease; with “Jumper On The Line”, for example, the Blues are invoked (the original is by R. L. Burnside), and other songs by other musicians like Bob Dylan (“Outlaw Blues”) take on a direction of their own. “Bottle Of Whiskey” by Frankie Miller gets a little raspier in the vocals than you are used to from Miller, and Charlie McCoy refines this piece as featured harmonica player.

But original compositions, too, such as “Brand New Love” by Jo Lily, absorb American music history, here with a light feeling of John Lee Hooker included. Traditional songs like “Wouldn’t Mind Dyin” have a trace of gospel, and when you hear “Backstreet Girl” by the Rolling Stones, the prevailing balladesque and harmonic mood of the title is interpreted with feeling.

Once again, rich blues with “Going To The River”, Jimmy Reed and Delta sound seemingly coming together, and at the end with “Dreamer’s Holiday”, a swaying trace of nostalgia of the fifties with a subtle jazz feeling. The song is also supposed to be a tribute to Bobby’s first guitar teacher since this song, which was popular at the time, is said to have been his favorite. But wait – there is also a bonus track, “Jumper On The Line” once again, a shortened version of the song to be played on radio programs. And that certain swamp feeling is there; the North Mississippi All Stars translate it into sound as accompanists.

Yes, this musical compilation in the sense of Americana is a success imbued with the swing and gospel of churches, the steam of swamps, and that certain back-porch feeling of days long past. So, here indeed, the formula holds true: Americana = The Mystix, a band that should finally move to the front row with its mysterious name!