Posts Tagged ‘soul’

I know it’s only Tuesday, but I’ve got a couple of Friday night bands here I’ve been listening to for a few days who have new studio albums out, although I suspect that in both cases they sound better when heard live in a dark room under the glow of the beer light.

Reverend Horton Heat - RevReverend Horton Heat – Rev

First up is a character named Reverend Horton Heat, who is relatively unknown to me, though not to America from what I’ve read. He’s been kicking around long enough to be nearly as old as I, and has been putting out records since 1990.

The Rev plays a rough and ready style of what I believe is most appropriately called punkabilly. He leads a three piece band which includes a stand-up double bass. It’s the classic Stray Cat’s line-up, but with an energy reminiscent of the early Clash, without the politics. The songs themselves don’t consistently fare well against either of those comparisons, and Heat isn’t quite Brian Seltzer. However the adrenalin levels are high and it sounds like these guys would be fun to see in a bar.

“Never Gonna Stop It”, a rock ‘n’ roll song about rock ‘n’ roll, is now on the What AM I listening to 2014 playlist.

Tommy Castro - Devil You KnowTommy Castro and the Painkillers – The Devil You Know

Next is a guy who actually is my age, Tommy Castro, along with his band the Painkillers. They play a mix of blues, old school r&b, and rock. To my ears the musicality, songwriting and guitar playing is a notch above the Rev’s. I suspect the album will also hold up better to repeated listenings. On the other hand there’s a sort of just good enough lo-fi quality to this album that also makes it sound a bit rough edged, and a good-time feel that makes me think both artists could happily share a stage with without too much culture shock for the audience.

The album boasts a decent cover of the old Wet Willie song “Keep on  Smilin’” that makes the song sound more like a J. Geils track than the original did, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Among the originals it’s hard to know which one should be picked for the playlist, there are enough equal contenders. I went with “Medicine Woman” ’cause that’s the way I roll. It’s on the playlist.

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Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings "Give the People What They Want"I remember lying under the covers with my first transistor radio, keeping the volume down so my parents wouldn’t know I was still awake.  Mid-60’s radio opened up new worlds to my impressionable young ears. One of those worlds was a land called Motown.   Listening to The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin and The Four Tops , to name a few, made me feel simultaneously excited and chilled, pouring right through my heart chakra (although at the age of ten I don’t recall articulating it to myself quite like that).  The initial thrill from that music may be well in the past, but it still makes me feel good to hear that music.

I listened to “Give the People what They Want” by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings for the first time just after a particularly protracted, dry and less than productive work meeting. Almost immediately I had feelings similar to those described above. You can’t not feel good listening to this music.

The Google machine tells me Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are at the forefront of a revivalist movement to revive and revitalize soul and funk from the 60’s and 70’s. They certainly seem to meet that criteria. Sharon Jones has a powerful, classic voice for soul. The songs fit perfectly into that genre. The only significant difference, if you can call it one, is that the songs have a contemporary edge. “People Don’t Get What They Deserve” is perhaps the most obvious example of that with its subject being the growing inequality between the rich and the working poor.

The arrangements and production values here are in keeping with the era they hark back to, right down to recording to analog. If there are any modern touches here they are subtle and only used to serve to support the musical concept, and probably make the recordings sound as clear and crisp as people of an earlier time would have made them had the technology been there.  In short, “Give the People What They Want” sounds and feels like an authentic Motown album from four or five decades ago.

I recommend this album to anyone who likes music. Now that I’ve finally discovered this band I’m certain I’ll be going through the back catalog of albums they’ve been releasing since 2002.

It was a tough choice making selections for the playlist. There were so many candidates. I finally settled on “Retreat”, which is the strong album opener and has grown on me with repeated listenings. I’ve also chosen “You’ll Be Lonely”, because it was one of the first songs to stick in my brain, and it sounds so cool and funky. Both songs are on the What Am I Listening To 2014 playlist