Funk & Soul

Dusted || The 10 Best Cover Songs Of September 2021

Not all new music is really new, as many artists occasionally play a song they know from one of their heroes. Often they are songs that deserve to be dusted and polished, simply because they should not be forgotten. Some of those cover versions are so good, we’d like to put a spotlight on them. Chosen from a wide range, here are – in alphabetical order – ten of our favorite covers from last month – links to the pages where you can add them to your wantlist included.

96 Tears || Cover: Oort Clod || Original: ? & The Mysterians
Manchester-based five-piece Oort Clod released a nice 12-track split EP (together with Priceless Bodies), on which the 1966 garage rock single is doused with a post-punk sauce. Out on cassette through Alphaville Records.

New album: Jackie Venson || Love Transcends

“They say freedom is in the mind // Well we lose our freedom when we get too scared to fight // One step forward is another step farther behind.” After half a minute of music, with these first lines, you know this is a special release. We are talking about Love Transcends, the new full-length album by American singer / songwriter / guitarist Jackie Venson. She wrote the songs across a decade (and added a new version of the classics Down By The Riverside and Up Above My Head), recorded them in a pandemic, played in a style a century old, but completely contemporary in every way. This is soulful blues rock, where Venson’s awesome, powerful distinctive vocals take your breath away, whether she screams or whispers. As if that isn’t impressive enough, she also throws out some stunning guitar solos, and she’s joined by a great band (Marcus Clark on bass, Jon Deas on piano and organ, Rodney Hyder on drums). This is Jackie Venson’s unique sound, the sound of a great star in the making.

Love Transcends is out now digitally and on CD. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp 

PS  Do yourself a favor and also watch the recording of the live concert that Jackie Venson gave in Texas late last year. Enchanting.

Throwback Thursday: Silk Rhodes || Pains

Now that I’ve finally watched High Fidelity, the American television series starring Zoë Kravitz, Jake Lacy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and David H. Holmes, I’m kind of addicted to Pains by Silk Rhodes. The standout song of the rich and varied soundtrack, featured in episode 9 and 10,  comes from the first and only full-length album (self-titled, 2014) by producer Michael Collins and vocalist Sasha Desree. It’s cinematic soul with an early 70’s vibe, which once again proves how music can enhance images, and the other way around. RIYL The Delfonics, Bobby Oroza, Portishead.

“All things must change and remain // Growing pains”

Silk Rhodes is available digitally, on cassette, CD, and vinyl LP through Stones Throw.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Black Light Animals || Playboys of the Western World

As noted earlier this week: strange can be good. Playboys of the Western World, the debut album from American psychedelic soul group Black Light Animals, is another solid proof of that finding. They describe their music quite adequately as a sprawling, decadent examination of what it means to be a human being through the lens of horror movie organs, spaghetti western guitars, hip hop grooves, psychedelic sojourns, and ballads crooned to lovers in the night, although that list is not complete, because you’ll also hear rock, dub, and glam influences. It sounds like Isaac Hayes, Portishead, Ennio Morricone, and Portugal. The Man were experimenting together — that shouldn’t work, but it does. These are trippy, cinematic and mysterious songs that come into their own after dark when you’ve had a drink or two. Great work by Cole Bales (vocals / guitar / bass / piano / keyboards / synth / organ / percussion), Cody Calhoun (guitar / percussion), Zach Harris (drums / percussion / synth), Branden Moser (bass / guitar / keyboards / synth / organ / percussion), and some friends who added piano, viola and violin. Watch the video for standout track Halo.

Stream the full album below.

Playboys of the Western World is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Groove King Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Tony Cannam || The Re-Set Pt.1

Let’s dance. Tony Cannam, UK songwriter / band leader / producer of Soulnaturals, has released his debut solo album The Re-Set Trilogy Pt.1, the first of an ambitious trilogy of longplayers documenting personal and global events. It’s the result of a thought and consciousness experiment: an approach of “no thinking” was used, recording an instinctive daily flow of ideas over a period, then returning to develop finished works from the most outstanding sounds. The first 12 songs range from cinematic bedroom soul and poppy gospel to catchy funk, a rich resource for hip-hop producers looking for samples. Smooth and sunny orchestrated music inspired by the 60s and 70s, good for tapping feet and a smile. Listen to the full album below.

Out now digitally on British Soul Standard. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Juno

New album: Pony Hunt || VAR!

VAR! is the second album by Pony Hunt. The press releases describes the sound of the band as psychedelic folk, which makes sense I guess, but it understates how varied the soundscapes are on VAR!. The album opens strongly with Pulse, a mesmerizing song that seems to come from a different era. It’s the first of many standouts, like the gorgeous Stardust, the dreamy Rise and the modern indie rock oriented Stardust and That Feeling.

In terms of its direction, VAR! is an outlier in my musical diet, but one I find myself returning to. Most likely, this is due to the power, honesty and vulnerability in the voice of Jessie Antonick, who truly takes these songs to a different level. Her voice goes beyond mere talent. I like to believe that her life experiences and travels add an additional emotional layer to her voice – at different times, Antonick lived on a sailboat and in a chevy van. Antonick’s identity struggles, a central theme on the record, likely also factor in

The second main draw of VAR! is Pony Hunt’s ability to create something fresh and exciting out of the many different generations of American music. Pony Hunt makes you get lost in the woods and then drops crumbs of doo-wop, folk, country, indie rock, blues, soul and punk to help you claw your way back; It’s quite the adventure. VAR! is out now on Wing And Wing, including a limited edition with a handmade lyric book.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Wing And Wing

New album: Paris Pick || Hope For The Best

Canadian singer/songwriter Paris Pick does everything a little differently than usual, and we can only applaud that. The way she uses her voice, how she mixes genres / instruments in her heterogeneous music and adds twists / contradictions in her honest lyrics: quirky and therefore interesting – somewhat similar to what appeals to me in the music of Jens Lekman. She just released her sophomore (digital) album Hope for the Best, for which she brought in some great musicians, who looked beyond guitar and drums. These are eight original soulful indie pop songs about growing-up, colorful and upbeat. Slightly different, but it makes me happy and isn’t that what music is all about?

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Jeb Loy Nichols || Jeb Loy

“Now I was born in the country // And I was raised in town // We came back up here looking for // A place to settle down // But it’s hard times in the hills // Dark clouds gather at our door,” Jeb Loy Nichols sings in We Gotta Work On It, one of the tracks on his new record. The fact that it’s titled Jeb Loy indicates that it has a personal character, just listen to the lyrics about his live experiences, relationships and moments on the road. The musician / writer / artist is born in America but now lives remote in the hills of Wales. He grew up with southern soul, bluegress, jazz and punk, and his first recording was a rap song called I’m A Country Boy (1980, unreleased), influences that came together nicely in his previous work. However, this new album is much more unambiguous: folk soul with gritty grooves and mellow melodies, carried by those recognizable, raspy vocals. The fact that the ten new songs were written and performed together with Timmion Records’ awesome rhythm section Cold Diamond & Mink makes for a tight and cohesive collection.

Out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP through Timmion Records. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: The Treetops || Rev It Up!

If you listen closely, you’ll hear a motor getting started in the opening seconds of the new Treetops album Rev It Up! The Florida band keeps that motor running throughout album opener Easy Street. It’s a fun pubrock’n’roll hit straight from the garage, and one of my favorites on the record. Hangin’ On is another fun old time rnr song, but The Treetops play a mixture of styles on Rev It Up!

The Treetops clearly are a band that in addition to rock-‘n’- roll, also love soul & disco (Something In The Air), blues, and boogie woogie. I think the lo-fi sound fits the band well, but ultimately, these songs likely are experienced even better in raucous live performances.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: True Loves || Sunday Afternoon

Uplifting instrumental funk & soul on this sunny Sunday afternoon, anyone? The sophomore album by The True Loves is the ideal soundtrack for that moment. The eight musicians from Seattle know how to create a good mood with their instruments; it’s as if the guitar, bass, drums, two trombones, two saxophones, and percussion are talking to each other, complementing and amplifying the other players. Sunday Afternoon is out now digitally, on CD and blue vinyl LP via Color Red.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Color Red

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