Stephen Mougin | “Ordinary Soul” | Review

Article Contributed by Nicole Lise Feingold | Published on Monday, September 14, 2020

I am far from an “Ordinary Soul.” Life experiences have tainted me, quirky, dark humored, jaded and at times sassy verging on salty. (I’m proud of these characteristics. Who wants to be run of the mill?) After listening to Stephen “Mojo” Mougin’s 12-track album I can confidentiality state there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about his music. Its ‘soul’ is Americana at its finest with solid storytelling, clear vocals and instrumentals that range from rousing to consoling.

The leading tune, “New Beginnings” is hopeful, not only in title and lyrics but also its quick, upbeat tenor. Mojo’s words resonate, especially now, as we all negotiate these particularly challenging times of a raging virus, climate disasters, social unrest and failed leadership. “I see a path before me, so I’ll take another step. Life’s a journey to the great unknown. I’m changing out of desperation, leaving my regrets. Not waiting ‘round to see my name in stone. And find a little meaning on my own.” The distinct country waltz of “Color Me Lonely” is enticing from the first note. Envisioning a dusty, dance hall I am suddenly swept onto the floor by a suitor. Unfortunately, he isn’t the one I’m craving. I regretfully watch as the cowboy I once had is waltzing closely with another gal. “Color Me Lonely” is a familiar state of being for most everybody, at least at some point. “Pale as a faded old picture. Blue as a night without end. Taking the magic, leaving the misery. I know you don’t love me. Now that it’s over, color me lonely again.” Mojo carries the song with his robust vocals, joined by sweet background singers at the opportune moments. The heartfelt, gentle guitar is the star of the musical interlude. “Play Me A Sad Song Again” is exactly what I needed. It’s uplifting and completely accurate. It’s a love song, but the lyrics can be applied to the overall insanity which is quite typical in this often messed up world. (Luckily, I’m able to find humor in having dodged being associated with a fraudulent insurance claim. Life’s absurdities.) “There's something about a sad song that always makes me smile. Forgetting the world for a while. And sometimes the beauty is written in pain. So, play me a sad song again.” The underlying mandolin and I’m guessing a violin provide a dichotomy. They are sorrowful and at the same time amusing.    

Steve Mougin - photo by Jake Cudek

I took Mojo’s title literally at first. I focused on how neither one of us were average. It’s still true, but I was being cocky. Then it dawned on me. Mojo created an album that describes ‘ordinary’ ordeals that are part of life’s ginormous rollercoaster. The ‘soul’ or way his music is performed demonstrates as well as symbolizes complexity even when on the surface it may seem simple. The title, “Ordinary Soul,” is not only appropriate but profound as the entire record provides a deep sense of understanding and ease surrounding these common place experiences. It’s magnificent.