Gone to Hell is Mooney’s first studio release in four years and finds his basic formula intact: funky New Orleans rhythms punctuated by stabs of electric slide guitar and Son House-influenced vocals. The bad news is that Mooney has little that is new or different to add to the mix on this outing.
The good news is that the formula still works, and always has, whether on Mooney’s acoustic ’80s recordings on Blind Pig or in his more recent electric format.
More good news: Gone to Hell is Mooney’s most appealing new recording in a decade, dating to his 1990 Bullseye recording, Late Last Night, which remains his definitive work. Gone to Hell is a more focused effort than his 1996 House of Blues release, Against the Wall, and easier on the ear than his 1997 live solo electric release, Dealing With the Devil, on the Ruf label.
The songs: Skip James’ "Cypress Grove" gets a swampy reworking, featuring heavily tremeloed guitar from Mooney and a fat, syncopated bottom line from drummer Kerry Brown. Mooney also pays tribute to Son House with a jittery acoustic solo piece, "Dry Spell Blues," which laments the fact that pork chops are 45 cents a pound. Mercy! Leroy Carr’s "How Long" takes on a swaying gospel cast, thanks in part to a guest piano spot by Dr. John, who appears on several cuts on the CD. The good doctor also makes an essential contribution to the classic Crescent City mambo, "That’s What Lovers Do" and the profoundly funky "No."
Funkiest of all is "Indian Lea," a lyrical tribute to coffee that dares you not to dance. Don’t fight it. Welcome back, John.
— Bryan Powell