Funk & Soul

New album: Night Owls || Versions

The 45’s that Californian supergroup Night Owls released in the past three years sold out quickly, but the good news is that these singles have now been brought together on the irresistible album Versions. It’s a successful project of Dan Ubick (The Lions, Connie Price and the Keystones, De La Soul) on guitar and percussion, Blake Colie (Arise Roots, The Lions, Hollie Cook) on drums, Dave Wilder (The Lions, Ziggy Marley, Macy Gray) on bass, and Roger Rivas (The Aggrolites, Jason Mraz, LBDA) on organ and piano, and they re-image classic funk and soul hits and deep cuts with a Jamaican twist, but they do it like no other. On every track there’s a different vocalist, and they are not the least. For example, on Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) you can hear the voice of Terin Ector (Orgone), and on Shuggie Otis’ Aht Uh Mi Hed that of John Arthur Bigham (Fishbone, Soul Of John Black). This is a heavy soul and dub infused LP with ace covers only, performed by top class musicians and singers, carefully selected and produced by Dan Ubick. Without a doubt this is THE record for barbecue parties this year.

Versions is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through F-Spot Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || F-Spot

New album: Morad || About a Woman

Let’s shift our focus to Jakarta, Indonesia, where we find one of the greatest talents in contemporary R&B/soul. Mohammad Fajar Bagus Radityo’s versatile, intriguing, flexible singing voice is one that instantly evokes a sense of sensation in any music lover. Under the moniker of Morad the singer-songwriter has just released his debut full-length album About a Woman, featuring nine intense songs inspired by his muse. Although the wonderful vocals rightly claim the leading role, the rich musical accompaniment and appropriate production (by Viki Vikranta) are sublime. This is a beautiful and impressive LP.

About a Woman is out now digitally through Berita Angkasa. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Hogchoker || 2222

Few bands have such an eclectic, crazy sound as Hogchoker, the Shanghai-based 4-piece with Simon Jackson (vocals, sax), Tom Brodie (bass), Matt Saunders (guitar), and Zee (drums). You can describe their style as theatrical, funky world punk, always socially aware and played with full dedication. On February 22, 2022 at 22:22 their new full-length 2222 went live on the streaming services, which should contain 22 tracks but turned out to be 26 (not really unexpected, because in our Gimme 5 feature they also exceeded the usual 5 choices ;)). It’s a concept album, featuring songs for people – poets, nurses, wrestlers and murderers – who would be 100, 200 or 300 this year. Good idea, well executed. Moreover, on a song level this release is much more unambiguous and classic in structure than before, which will make it more enjoyable for most listeners (the versatility is certainly reflected in the entire project, because ska, dub, punk, klezmer, jazz, EDM, salsa, and even ballads all come by). This is 112 minutes of fascinating, surprising music, in which everyone should be able to find something to their taste. History has never been so much fun.

2222 is out digitally (name your price). Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New album: Mike Clark & The Sugar Sounds || Moon Rock

American singer-songwriter Mike Clark has released his sophomore album Moon Rock, nearly a decade after his debut full-length Round and Round. He may be influenced by the great R&B artists of the past, but he brings his mixture of funky soul and bluesy rock ‘n’ roll to the present like no other. He wrote, recorded, and produced the ten new songs here, and was also responsible for lead vocals, guitar, bass, synths, and strings. Yet this isn’t a solo album, because the contributions of Ben Gallagher (keys), Robin Chestnut (drums), and Gordon Lewis (saxophone, flute) make it a real band effort. Don’t be distracted by the imagery and 70’s psychedelic / 80’s funk bombast of the title track with which the LP opens (this isn’t a concept album with spacey sounds!), because what follows is warm soul blended with Black Keys-esque blues rock, but more subtle and more sensitive. Give this record a few spins and chances are you’ll love it to the moon and back.

Moon Rock is out now digitally. Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

Gimme 5! Elise Okusami (Oceanator) Shares 5 Albums She Had On Repeat In This Pandemic

With ‘Gimme 5!’ we take a peek into the collections of artists we admire. The premise is simple: artists WE like share 5 records THEY love.

Two years ago, Elise Okusami released Things I Never Said, her debut full-length as Oceanator. The record received wide acclaim from critics and fans worldwide, including us: With songs like Heartbeat and A Crack In The World we became instant fans. Which explains our excitement that, in a couple of weeks, Oceanator’s follow up is set to arrive. It’s called Nothing’s Ever Fine and showcases Okusami at her brightest and boldest yet. Oceanator sounds bigger than ever, and given the size and frequency of the hooks on the record, I fully expect Oceanator to reach even bigger crowds while making her existing fanbase ecstatic. [post continues below]

New album: Bastards Of Soul || Corners

Bastards Of Soul‘s debut LP Spinnin’ made it to my year-end list of 2020, so I was really looking forward to new work from the East Dallas-based soul quintet. Their sophomore album Corners seemingly effortlessly lives up to the high expectations, but it’s a release with a dark edge. The band – Chadwick Murray (powerful lead vocals), Danny Balis (bass), Christopher Holt (guitar), Chad Stockslager (keys), and Matt Trimble (drums) – were at their peak during the recordings, resulting in nine intense, new songs. They brought them live on stage in July 2021, and two months later charismatic frontman Chadwick Murray (45) unexpectedly died, just a few days after his son was born. The emotional backstory (read more at TexasMonthly) only makes the thrilling music more impressive. For me Just A Little Bit stands out, but closing song Come Around hits the hardest, since the lyrics have so much more meaning now: “Tell me why // Why can’t a good thing last?” Chadwick Murray lives on in this beautiful music.

Corners is out now digitally and on vinyl LP through Eastwood Music Group.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

Dusted || The 10 Best Cover Songs Of February 2022

Not all new music is really new, as many artists cover songs. Sometimes these are songs by their favorite artists, eg as a tribute to such a musical hero for a special reason, or they simply feel that a song deserves to be dusted and polished to reacquaint fans with great songs from the past. Other times, bands cover songs as a parody. Regardless of intent, some of those cover versions are so good or so much fun, we’d like to put a spotlight on them. Chosen from a wide range, here are – in random order – ten of our favorite covers from last month – links to the pages where you can add them to your wantlist included.

You’ve probably seen compilations with cover versions of songs by Todd Rundgren and Yoko Ono elsewhere, and for some reason at least 3 different artists released a new reimagination of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire (don’t ask), but there was a lot more to choose this month.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere || Cover: Guerrilla Monzón || Original: Neil Young
At the end of last year I wrote enthusiastically about PCH, the debut EP by New York trio Guerrilla Monzón. Now Jason Sanchez (vocals, guitars), Eric Gordon (vocals, bass), and Rey Sinsay (drums) are back with Make It Home, featuring 7 new songs worthy of your attention. There’s this telling cover on it, which I don’t want to withhold from you (this way the legacy of Neil Young can still be listened to on Spotify, sort of ;)), but their own songs are just as good.

New album: Chris Lujan & Electric Butter feat. Andre Cruz || The Real Thing

Californian multi-instrumentalist / songwriter / producer / record executive Chris Lujan has played bass as a session musician in numerous bands since the early 1990’s. Finally he comes to the fore with his own project, and with his full-length album The Real Thing he does so very convincingly. This is soul music as soul music is meant to be, sweet, funky and heart-felt at the same time. On January 1, 2021 you already heard the standout track New Years Day, how cool that there’s more such good music from where that came from.

Chris Lujan himself co-wrote, produced, recorded, and mixed the 10 songs here, and he also played guitars, bass, drums, glockenspiel, tambourine, and keys. Several friends – Electric Butter: Michael Reed, Robert Walter, Joe Baer Magnant, Raynier Jacildo, Micah McClain, Adam Scone, Rob Dehlinger, Matt Morrish, Andrew Gillespie, and Rachel Havens – came by for additional organ, trumpet, saxophone, flute and more, but it’s to a great extent the powerful contribution of vocalist Andre Cruz who takes the tunes to a higher level. This truly is the real thing!

The Real Thing is out now digitally, on CD and vinyl LP (shipping in August) through Chris Lujan’s own label Lugnut Brand Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

New single: Diane Ward & The Kevin Fingier Collective || Why Don’t You Go Home / Cocktail De Medianoche

Here’s another incredible R&B hipshaker with a ’60s sound. Last year we heard The Kevin Fingier Collective collaborate with Jo Ann Hamilton, on the A-side of this new single you now can hear the powerful raspy vocals of Diane Ward. The American gospel singer lived in Argentina for a couple of years, where Kevin Fingier saw her perform. Her voice blew his mind, and if you listen to Why Don’t You Go Home yours too. On the B-side you hear Latin floor filler Cocktail de Medianoche, an instrumental track with percussion, flute and horns.

Why Don’t You Go Home b/w Cocktail De Medianoche is out now digitally and 7″ vinyl through Acid Jazz’ subsidiary label Fingier Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp || Discogs

New album: Shanda & The Howlers || It Ain’t Easy

In between listening to recent releases I was looking for the best playlist with 50’s/60’s rhythm & blues hipshakers, imho the most suitable music for a good house party, I actually came across a new album in this genre: Shanda & the Howlers are back with killer R&B record It Ain’t Easy.

Shanda Cisneros (vocals), Luke Metz (bass, backup vocals, songwriting), Trevor Johnson (guitar), and Joshua Miller (drums) not only know how to play blues, garage and soul as it should be, but they capture it in quality songs that gain even more expressiveness through the mighty voice of the front woman. The album title might suggest otherwise, but writing a new collection of hip shakers seems to come off quite easily for the Las Vegas band. Thanks for that.

It Ain’t Easy is out now digitally and on CD via Rum Bar Records.

Add to wantlist: Bandcamp

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