Big Head Todd and the Monsters: Black Beehive Review

Big Head Todd and the Monsters, led by Todd Park Mohr, have carried their musical impact for over two decades with them into the present with their latest album Black Beehive, a record that’s title was inspired by the late, talented and fondly remembered Amy Winehouse. The album is most personal, and each song was written with both contemporary and traditional musical and lyrical elements. Some of the record’s themes come from relatively current events and issues in the news, while others are simply traditionally blues-based. Still others are tribute-based. Black Beehive is, in a sense, a testimony to their growth as a group, despite their past successes with older material and style. While cognitive and thankful of their past, the band continues to evolve and experiment into the future, extending their longevity for perhaps another promising 25 years. Black Beehive is undoubtedly yet another step in the right musical direction.

The album opens with a song called “Hey Delila,” a funky tribute to Memphis Minnie, an impactful blues vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist whose career led into the 1950s. With verses like, “”Little town out on the island / Know she was a miracle / Like a point on an electric guitar / She taught the king how to shake and moan,” the group certainly makes their appreciation well known. The upbeat, second track, “Everything About You,” is another unusually dedicatory track to NASA, in remembrance of when the band was asked to play their song “Blue Sky” in 2011 for the Discovery space shuttle crew. “Seven State Lines” follows, a story supported by groovy blues riffs about a man “crossin’ seven state lines to get away” from his “mean and arbitrary woman.” “Josephina” has an ’80s, soft rock feel, and is a personal statement in which he is refusing to settle down and is expressing a desire to rid himself of his miserable job; he feels trapped, and wants to get away, perhaps “To California, where [his] sweet freedom shines.” The album’s title track, “Black Beehive,” is a slow, moody memorial to Winehouse, beautifully written and as tragic sounding as her worldly escape. “We Won’t Go Back” is a catchy track blatantly describing the gory, desperate Arab uprisings in the Middle East from 2010.

Similarly, the seventh track, “Fear, Greed, and Ignorance” are the very three characteristics which Mohr blames for America’s current, and many would argue detrimental, state — “Our forefathers threw tea down into that sea / Now common sense, intelligence / It is a throwaway thing.” “Hubert’s Dream” is yet another passionate tribute, one to the late Hubert Sumlin, a legendary Chicago blues guitarist and singer, who passed away in 2011. “I Get Smooth” is a lighthearted comparison, one which states that he gets smooth when he’s been drinking, but this woman he tries to coerce gets oh so mean. This song’s soft, acoustic instrumentals add to its playfulness. These light instrumentals continue in “Travelin’ Light,” a love song laced between the sweet sounds of a harmonica. The final song, a folkish, acoustic track called “Forever Bonnie,” is based on a heartbreaking, true story in which a man received a love letter 53 years later after it was sent, and because of this, he had already moved on — “Imagine how shocked I was / At what came in the mail today / What I wanted was a statement of your love / But fifty-three years is just a little too late.”

Big Head Todd and the Monsters have certainly made strides with this record, an album filled with vulnerable honesty, true stories, and mournful (and joyous) memorials. Black Beehive incorporates a small taste of everything, making it a record of bluesy variety with a song for everyone. With each track so memorable, personal, and unique, the album as a whole is sure to be recognized as a most refreshing contribution to the legendary collection of blues.

The Review: 9/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Josephina
– Black Beehive
– Hubert’s Dream
– I Get Smooth
– Travelin’ Light

The Big Hit

– Black Beehive

Review by Jill Jacobs

Buy the album: Amazon | iTunes

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