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Li'l Mo & the Monicats

On the Moon – 2009 (Cow Island)

Reviewed by Rick Bell

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CDs by Li'l Mo & the Monicats

It's tough enough perfecting a single facet of American roots music. So encompassing everything from soul to rockabilly to zydeco on a single album sounds downright schizophrenic. To be sure, Li'l Mo's first record in a decade covers a lot of ground. But the 20-year veteran of New York's country scene - with a huge assist from multi-instrumentalist and co-producer Hank Bones - deftly glides between styles with flair and confidence.

Li'l Mo-otherwise known as Monica Passin - wrote 9 of the 11 cuts, and really shines vocally on the '60s pop I Really Love (to Really Love You) and the torchy lounge number Dreamy. Passin's country chops are straight-ahead honky tonk, as she shuffles through the opening I Could Get Used to This and the Ray Price classic I've Got a New Heartache. Yet her rockabilly really swings, especially the cover of Bill Hailey's Rockin' Chair on the Moon.

As good as Passin sounds vocally, Bones musically drives each song. He plays at least two instruments on every cut and in most cases handles four or five, from bass and drums to Dobro and toy piano. The scattershot selection of roots music could have gone horribly wrong, but Passin and Bones deliver a unique but familiar take on each number while keeping a consistent sound throughout.