Here in Arizona, everything just stopped on the Ides of March. The music stopped. The bars closed. It was closing time, and it seemed like the very last one. Suddenly, every band in town was scrambling. Album release shows got canceled. Rescheduled. Canceled again. My social media feeds showed a slow crawl of despair: canceled gigs, canceled jobs, depth of loneliness and sadness for many, and financial stress to the extreme for most. Every musician in town was hurting. And even as the COVID -19 Lockdown begins to roll out, there are just so many looming questions for the entertainment industry. So many unknowns. People could really use some Sunshine.
The Black Moods have been anything but, since my first trip to the Moods Shed to interview Josh Kennedy. They are the most jovial of dudes, and their band – well, there is just not a whole lot to be moody about. Their first single from Sunshine, Bella Donna, had become the band’s first crack onto the Billboard Charts in November of 2018. It peaked at #29.
The following summer they released the second single, Bad News, which also charted, peaking at #24. Josh, Chico and Jordan went all in and upgraded from their van to a full on Tour Bus at that point, and spent most of the late summer and fall touring first with Gin Blossoms, then with Whitesnake, to sold out crowds. I caught up with the boys at Scotty’s (Bass Player for Pistoleros / Ghetto Cowgirl) Christmas party, where they played some Dwight Yoakam.
January brought Sunshine‘s third single, Whatcha Got, and The Black Moods three-peated, with the song peaking at #30, and then the world started to get weird.
Tool decided to release a new album after 14 years and Post Malone decided to do a song with some guy named Ozzy Osborne. Meanwhile, the fourth radio single from Sunshine, Throwing Shade, a killer freaking song by the way, barely missed charting…. and then the world stopped.
I spend a lot of time thinking about my friends these days. All of them. The Arizona music community has become family. And my family is hurting. But specifically, I thought about The Black Moods a lot when everything stopped. I thought about their level of dedication. They live, work, eat, sleep, play…. The Black Moods. It is their life. If you are not seeing them out on the road, these three guys – with very few, but necessary exceptions – are working. All the time. Other bands from around town will ask me, “How do the Moods do it? How have they landed on the radio 4 times without a major label? Didn’t they leave Sony?”
The answer to all of those questions is the same. And it is not always what people want to hear. The answer…. is WORK. Work and priotiries. And by saying priorities, that is not an external judgement. But it must be an internal one. Many folks cannot make music their entire life. They simply cannot stay out on the road. They have family. They have other jobs. They have conflicts. The Black Moods did not find some sort of magical wand that made them America’s Golden Boys. They. Are. The Black Moods. 100% of the time. Dedication to a dream. And work.
And…. folks…. they have been doing it for years. Sunshine is full length album number three. The Black Moods have been playing as The Black Moods for over a decade, and Chalmers Green before that.
I thought about being on the verge of a dream. I am a writer. I create things out of my head, and they get released to the public. We all dream… of making it. Of seeing our name in the neon lights, or our book on the Bestseller list, or someone’s top shelf, or hearing our song on the radio in our hometown. And The Black Moods were poised to open for Metallica at a festival in North Carolina this month. They were main stage headliners again at Roger Clyne’s Circus Mexicus. Their songs were on radios all across America. And the world stopped. I thought about disappointment. I thought about bitterness. I thought about trying to maintain hope.
But The Black Moods came home from their cut short tour, and jumped on social media to engage and assure their fans. Sunshine was on the way damnit, and by God…. they were going to bring the world some Sunshine! First, the boys did two Live Stream test runs. Shelter in Place 1 and 2. The first was from their home studio (The Moods Shed). The second, recorded at Last Exit Live, was steamed live on The Black Moods YouTube Channel.
Streaming events has been an awesome way for musicians to stay connected to their fans throughout this pandemic. It has also had a powerful effect on many who are isolated, often completely alone, and missing their friends while they worry. Music is the Medicine.
These events also let the guys practice, to perfect a streaming show for their release of Sunshine, which happens this Saturday at 8 PM. Also, as an added bonus to Shelter in Place…… The Black Moods debuted the video for Sunshine, which incidentally became the number one added song on FM Rock Radio in America, and just debuted on the Billboard Chart at #37. (Watch this one rise folks. Mark my words.) And yes…. that is four.
Four Billboard charting hits on one record in the modern age of music. Folks, that is no joke. And it immediately made me think of an album from my youth that did a similar thing. Remember, times are significantly different in the music world.
Kick by INXS. Upon the release of Kick, Steve Huey of All Music, described the album as “an impeccably crafted pop tour de force, the band succeeding at everything they try. More to the point, every song is catchy and memorable, branded with indelible hooks.” And that album went on to spawn 4 top 10 hits in The United States. Kick was not a best of album, but it plays like one. And so does Sunshine by The Black Moods.
Sunshine – The Ghost Writer Review
The album shreds out of the gate with Sunshine. This song hits on every single level. Josh is a hell of a guitar player, and Chico, well… damn son that guy can smack the skins, but for me Jordan Hoffman on bass is a stand out on this record. As the newest of the Moods, Jordan will have his first full creative touch on this record, and my friends…. it shows. And the video is perfect.
Track 2 starts off with this analog demo recording of Bella Donna, and just about the time you wonder if there has been some sort of mistake, the driving power of the Johnny K produced, Doors-esque, anthem to wine and a beautiful woman just makes you wanna dance to the cellar.
Speaking of a beautiful woman, the boys learn maybe they just ain’t all that with Whatcha Got, especially that driving bass man! #ouch #suckerpunch But in all seriousness, as you can see with these first three tracks, all top 40 hits, these guys can rock you to the sunrays. They can groove you into a bottle. And they can rock out a power woman rock anthem that makes you wanna stomp. Folks… these Moods are gonna take America by storm!
But #TakeCoverArizona I think Do It Again just might be my favorite song on this record. Confession time. I was jamming this record all morning in my face mask and just belting this chorus from beneath it. You know, the devil’s in the details. Do it Again Do it Again Baby Do it Again… and i did. I hit repeat every single time. This song is going places. It just absolutely will not let you not sing along. It is Radio Perfection.
When I was writing Ghost Songs, I had just interviewed Josh Kennedy and we were talking about Bad News. “We just wanted to do this killer stalker song”, he told me. Well, I write creepy shit. So, you know where my head started to go. But then it got even weirder, and the Hacienda Rape Pregnancy Case hit Mesa, Arizona. My mind got real twisty, but I knew I was gonna take a leap. I called Josh, and told him what I had in mind. “Go for it man!” And that is the kind of small town, huge smile faith this rock star had in the small time indy guy. I will be eternally grateful. Plus… this acoustic version… is SICK !!!
And before you know it you are on track 6, Dirty Mess, and as it drives on the line, the same dress you wore last night, you realize you are now half way into the best damn rock n roll record you have heard in a very long time. Just like INXS, this band seems like they can do anything on this record. Pounding rhythms, driving bass lines, fantastic harmonies, and my god Josh is one hell of a front man. Charisma. Pants. Hair. But really….. it’s about the guitars man. I need your love, come and give it to me… Uhhh… and yup…. I hit repeat a lot on this one too.
And, before I get lost in all the Sunshine, and forget that we are in a pandemic, which is really easy to do listening to this record, let me tell you this. Lack of Love is about watching your lover fall in love with someone else. And you are dancing and singing along in the Sunshine. Throwing Shade is it’s antithesis, and Song 9, Wrong, is not happy happy joy joy in topic… but the Sunshine does not stop. Instead it just takes that Sunshine into a different place. some dark corner in your memory, and then The Black Moods brighten it.
And finally, Home. Folks: Josh, Chico, and Jordan are my friends. You may be thinking… blah blah blah Ryan, you aren’t going to be honest about your friends’ album. Folks, I am honest all of the time. I find an angle to be honest about. That is what good debaters do. With Sunshine…. there were no shortage of angles to some of the best Rock n Roll you have heard in a very long time. But this song. Home. Is perfect. It is the warm glow of loved ones. It is the happiness you see in the eyes of your son. It is the pain you feel when you have to leave them behind. It is the joy in your soul that you yearn for when you get to see them again. It is the poignant glow of a wonderful memory…. someday…. it just kind of hurts right now.
The album features a hidden surprise at the end. Be sure to stick around for the credits.