Meet the Band: Jen Maurer (accordion, vocals), Leigh Ann Wise (percussion, trumpet, vocals), Anthony Papaleo (guitar/fiddle), Bill Lestock (fiddle, guitar, mandolin), Sarah Benn (bass), Will Douglas (drums), Sam Rettman (harmonica), Toussaint English (bass, keyboards)
Inspired by "Texas": The band actually came together way back in 1995. "It had a different name but we were the same type of band," says Maurer. "Scott 'Texas' Gann came up from Texas and he had an accordion, so we started a band." When Gann died in 2002, Maurer says she and her band mates kept the band going to honor him and "it took on a life of its own." "I know it's odd to have this commitment to this type of music but Scott brought it to us," she says. "Over the course of time, we've had death, breakups, divorces. We've gone through a lot of change through the years."
An International Sensation: Earlier this year, the band embarked on its most extensive tour yet. The group left for a five-week tour of Belize, Panama, Barbados, Mexico and Colombia as music ambassadors with American Music Abroad (AMA), a program of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs. Then, in June, the group played Tajikistan where it performed a variety of gigs, one of which was at an orphanage. "The response was great," Maurer says. "If we're serving as cultural ambassadors, it was a success. In the Central American and South American countries, the salsa is similar to the zydeco dance. Dancing opened up the music to them. And everything there is so rhythmic, it worked out really well."
Why You Should Hear Them: Recorded at Suma and mastered at Cauliflower, the band's new album, We All Got the Same, features more up-tempo party tunes. Album opener "Love Lorna" sounds like the punk band X doing a zydeco number as the back-and-forth vocals have some real spunk to them, and the song benefits from some bluesy guitar riffs. "Marry a Northern Girl" is a rollicking instrumental that you can dance to. "It's a little bit of a different sound because we have sax on it," says Maurer when asked about the album. "It has double guitar sound. It's a little complicated because the band changed right after we made it. It's got a different presence. It has more group presence in the songwriting. We're pretty broad in what we do. There are two reggae songs, our version of zydeco and some Cajun tunes influenced by rock 'n' roll and other things. We wanted to be creative and think outside the box a bit."
Where You Can Hear Them: facebook.com/momojomusic
Where You Can See Them: Mo' Mojo performs at 10 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11, at the Barking Spider, and at 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, at Square Fest in Akron.