Category: Soul Music

 

With her recently released debut EP La fille aux cheveux coleur soleil, the emerging Lille, France-based singer/songwriter Julia quickly establishes her sound and approach  — a slick synthesis of jazzy neo-soul, hop-hop inspired beats paired with the French singer/songwriter’s  powerhouse vocals singing and rhyming lyrics in her native French and English.  “I’m just trying to make you feel my  feelings. The rest is all yours,” the Lille-based singer/songwriter says in press notes.

EP title track and opener “La fille aux cheveux coleur soleil” is a swaggering and slow-burning, neo-soul track with twinkling Rhodes, thumping beats, atmospheric electronics and Julia’s effortlessly soulful and sultry vocals. The EP’s second single “Hangover” is a hip-hop soul-like track featuring some more twinkling Rhodes, boom-bap beats, a sinuous bass line and Julia singing in a jazzy and seductive French. Seemingly inspired by Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and others, with a Quiet Storm vibey-ness, these two tracks — to my ears, at least — reveal a young superstar in the making. The EP’s two singles possess a remarkable self-assuredness and confidence with the material being ambitious, accessible — and centered around earnest, lived-in experience.

 

 

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Known as Juneteenth, Freedom Day,  Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, June 19, 2020 commemorates the 155th anniversary of Union Army General Gordon Granger arriving in Galveston, TX with his troops and announcing federal orders that all people held as slaves in Texas were free. In reality, those held as slaves in Texas were technically freed two and a half years earlier with the Emancipation Proclamation, which officially outlawed slavery across Confederate territories.

Although Juneteenth is commonly thought as celebrating the end of slavery in the US. it  was still legal and practiced in Union border states until December 6, 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolished non-penal, chattel slavery across the country.

Officially celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866, initially involving church-centered community gathering across Texas. It spread rapidly across the South becoming much more commercialized, centering around food. Regardless of how you celebrate it, today should be America’s real independence day —  the day in which all Americans were made free. There’s still a lot of work to be done by all of us for all of us to truly be free from fascism, white supremacy, the patriarchy and other oppressive human systems. Let’s keep pushing on.

In the meantime, I wanted to spend today celebrating Black people and Black art. Being Black has truly been the best thing to ever have happened to me. Black is multifaceted. Black is beautiful. Black is powerful and righteous. Black is brotherhood and sisterhood. Black is swagger and flavor. Black is joy in the face of terror, horror and injustice. Black is survival and pride. Black is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

If you’re Black and gay. I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and trans, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black woman, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re a Black man, I love you, you matter to me. If you’re Black and non-binary, I love you, you matter to me.

Because of the occasion, I had been thinking of Syl Johnson‘s 1969 full-length album Is It Because I’m Black? Born Sylvester Thompson in Holly Springs, MS, Johnson and his family relocated to Chicago in 1950. Acclaimed bluesman Magic Sam was his next-door neighbor — and Johnson quickly developed a reputation as a go-to guitarist and vocalist, playing with Billy Boy Arnold, Junior Wells, and Howlin’ Wolf throughout the 50s. He recorded with Jimmy Reed in 1959 and made his solo debut with Federal Records, a subsidiary of legendary Cincinnati blues label King Records that year.

Personally, I find Johnson to be interesting because he’s part of that last wave of the Great Migration — and because his work comfortably sits in between blues, R&B and soul.  As for Is It Because I’m Black? It’s a great album that deserves more love and greater attention for its observations and thoughts on being Black in America, Black unity and more — plus it features a Southern fried cover of The Beatles‘ “Come Together” that’s worth the price of admission.

 

 

 

 

New Video: Acclaimed Scandinavian Soul Artist Jonas Releases a Joyful and Warm New Single

Throughout his 20 plus year music career, the Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter  and multi-instrumentalist Jonas (born Jonas Rendbo) has been hailed by international press as the Godfather of Scandinavian Soul. During that period, the Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter has released a ton of music. which he has supported with tours across the world, sharing stages with Omar, John Legend, Joss Stone, Lynden David Hall and Bilal among a lengthy and growing list of others. Adding to his accolades, Rendbo won Artist of the Year and Best Video at the 2016 Scandinavian Soul Music Awards. 

Since 2004, Rendbo has split time between Copenhagen and London, where he met his wife and started a family. And while in London, he started collaborating with London-based multi-instrumentalist and producer The Scratch Professor, who coincidentally is Omar’s brother. Rendbo and The Scratch Professor had an instant musical simpatico and a couple of songs they wrote together wound up on Jonas’ sophomore album 2009’s W.A.I.T.T. 

Interestingly, their collaboration also managed to produce a handful of songs that the Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter had kept in his vault over the past decade — and have finally been released last month as the four song EP 4ward Fast To Future. Recorded, produced, mixed and mastered during COVID-19 quarantine lockdown during April, the EP is return to the warm, neo-soul sounds of his earliest work. 

The EP’s later single “Pick Me Up” is warm bit of 90s inspired soul, centered around shimmering Rhodes, boom bap-like beats, a sinuous bass line, a strutting horn line, an infectious hook and Rendbo’s sultry and plaintive falsetto. And while being a joyous, two step-inducing, radio friendly jam, the song’s narrator talks about desiring — and then having — the sort of love (and lover) that most of us dream of: that ride or die person, who’s with you and supports you through thick and thin, joy and heartbreak, sickness and health. Lucky and rare are those who find it. And if you’re one of those lucky ones,  I hope that you cherish it. Few things our morally bankrupt world live up to that. 

The recently released video features thermal imaging of Rendbo, The Scratch Professor, some of the track’s featured musicians as they perform the song — and we see Rendbo’s wife, dancing along the song with a enormous smile on her face. It may be DIY but it’s heartfelt.  
Throughout his 20 plus year music career, the Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter  and multi-instrumentalist Jonas (born Jonas Rendbo) has been hailed by international press as the Godfather of Scandinavian Soul. During that period, the Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter has released a ton of music. which he has supported with tours across the world, sharing stages with Omar, John Legend, Joss Stone, Lynden David Hall and Bilal among a lengthy and growing list of others. Adding to his accolades, Rendbo won Artist of the Year and Best Video at the 2016 Scandinavian Soul Music Awards. 

Since 2004, Rendbo has split time between Copenhagen and London, where he met his wife and started a family. And while in London, he started collaborating with London-based multi-instrumentalist and producer The Scratch Professor, who coincidentally is Omar’s brother. Rendbo and The Scratch Professor had an instant musical simpatico and a couple of songs they wrote together wound up on Jonas’ sophomore album 2009’s W.A.I.T.T. 

Interestingly, their collaboration also managed to produce a handful of songs that the Copenhagen-based singer/songwriter had kept in his vault over the past decade — and have finally been released last month as the four song EP 4ward Fast To Future. Recorded, produced, mixed and mastered during COVID-19 quarantine lockdown during April, the EP is return to the warm, neo-soul sounds of his earliest work. 

The EP’s later single “Pick Me Up” is warm bit of 90s inspired soul, centered around shimmering Rhodes, boom bap-like beats, a sinuous bass line, a strutting horn line, an infectious hook and Rendbo’s sultry and plaintive falsetto. And while being a joyous, two step-inducing, radio friendly jam, the song’s narrator talks about desiring — and then having — the sort of love (and lover) that most of us dream of: that ride or die person, who’s with you and supports you through thick and thin, joy and heartbreak, sickness and health. Lucky and rare are those who find it. And if you’re one of those lucky ones,  I hope that you cherish it. Few things our morally bankrupt world live up to that. 

The recently released video features thermal imaging of Rendbo, The Scratch Professor, some of the track’s featured musicians as they perform the song — and we see Rendbo’s wife, dancing along the song with a enormous smile on her face. It may be DIY but it’s heartfelt.  

Alan Evans is a songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist and producer, best known for being the co-founder of acclaimed jazz fusion trio and JOVM mainstays Soulive. Back in 2008, while Soulive was on a break from touring, Evans spent his time producing, recording and mixing bands from around the world in his Western Massachusetts-based recording studio. On his days off, he would go into the studio and play guitar, recording a collection of material that he didn’t feel fit Soulive but wanted to release under his own name — Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers wound up becoming Evans’ guitar playing alter ego.

Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers’ latest single, the strutting “Good Thang” features an All-Star cast of funk and jazz musicians that includes DJ Williams’ Shots Fired‘s and Rubblebucket’s Darby Wolf (organ), The Curtis Mayflower’s Pete Aleski (guitar), Akashic Record‘s and BT ALC Big Band’s Brian “BT” Thomas” (trombone), ALC Funktet’s and BT ALC Big Band’s Alex Lee-Clark (trumpet), BT ALC Big Band’s Tucker Antell (alto and tenor saxophone) BT ALC Big Band’s Jared Sims (baritone sax) and Kim Dawson (vocals), who contributes sultry vocals to a Daptone meets Muscle Shoals-like anthem, complete with an enormous horn section and an even bigger hook.

“Crushed Velvet and the Velveteers is all about spontaneous creation for me and the very creative friends I get to call on to be a part of it. ‘Good Thang’ is a perfect example,” Evans says in press notes. “Initially I went into the studio, picked up the guitar and let whatever I was feeling come out without worrying about what kind of song it was.” He continues, “Before I knew it, I had a really great feeling bed of bass, drums and guitar laid down. From there, I asked my great friends Darby, Pete, Brian, Alex, Tucker, Jarad and Kim to take what I started and record exactly what inspired them to play. That is the best part of making music for me, creating something that will inspire people.”

Cosima Lamberth is an emerging German-Swedish singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, who can trace her passion for music and her music career to her childhood in Malmö, Sweden. Lamberth relocated to Stockholm, where she became a highly-sought after vocalist and instrumentalist, collaborating with the likes of Seinabo Sey, Miriam Bryant, Norrbotten Big Band, Genevieve Artadi, KNOWER, and a growing list of others.

As a solo artist, the Malmo-born, Stockholm-based singer/songwriter is the creative mastermind behind the emerging recording project Cosima Olu, with which she’s released an EP and a handful of singles. Building upon a growing profile, Lamberth will be releasing her forthcoming full-length debut, an effort that was written and recorded on a remote island in Stockholm’s archipelago and at Oda Studios. Sonically, the album finds the emerging Swedish artist crafting warm, organic and retro soul-inspired material that thematically guides the listener on a journey through life’s highs and lows. The album’s first single, the vibey, neo-soul “behold” is centered around shimmering Rhodes, a sinuous bass line, brief blasts of twinkling synths and Lamberth’s effortlessly soulful vocals — and while seemingly upbeat, the song’s narrator describes her difficulty in maneuvering through sorrow and moving forward with a plaintive ache.

“I wrote this track four years ago while going through sorrow and trying to find my way out of my own head,” Lamberth explains. “I felt lost and I started to reach for glimpse of light from.. whatever. After a while, I recognized that I had to go back to myself and stop seeking answers elsewhere”

New Video: Holy Hive Releases a Dreamy and Nostalgia-Inducing Animated Visual for New Single

Holy Hive is a Brooklyn-based soul act featuring:

Paul Spring, a St. Cloud, MN-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who spent his formative years studying ancient languages, poetry and classical guitar before making a name for himself as a folk artist, eventually self-releasing seven albums, including a well-received children’s album Home of Song.
Homer Steinweiss, a Brooklyn-born and-based drummer, who has played, toured and recorded with a who’s who of contemporary soul and pop music including Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars, The Jonas Brothers, St. Vincent, Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings— before settling into a highly-south after session player.
Joe Harrison, a Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist who has played with Frank Dukes and Charles Bradley.
The band can trace its origins to when Spring and Steinwess met on a Minnesota farm through their respective girlfriends, who are cousins. Steinweiss and Spring soon began a long-distance friendship, which, over time developed into a folk music recording project. Harrison, was working at a studio assistant at The Diamond Mine Studios at the time and he started to sit in on the duo’s sessions, eventually joining the band as a full-time member in 2015 when the band began recording as Holy Hive.

In 2016 Spring relocated to New York and the members of Holy Hive were invited to tour with JOVM mainstay Lee Fields. That tour dramatically changed their approach and sound: after the tour they began exploring the relationships between the traditions and lyricism of folk and the aesthetics and rhythms of soul music — seamlessly meshing them into something anachronistic yet uniquely theirs. And with a new sound, they began honing their sound with a year-long monthly resident at Red Hook, Brooklyn-based dive bar Sunny’s with a rotating cast of collaborators. Then they spent the next couple of years working on folk and soul inspired material that thematically focused on love and loss.

The end result is the band’s long-awaited full-length debut Float Back to You. Slated for a May 29, 2020 release through Big Crown Records, the album is the follow-up to their critically applauded debut EP Harping and a string of well-received singles. Recorded at Steinwess’ Diamond Mind Studios, the album was produced by Steinwess and consists of 10 originals, a cover of Honeybus’ “Be Thou By My Side” and a re-working of the old Irish folk standard “Red is the Rose.” The album also features an impressive array of guest stars including Mary Lattimore (harp), El Michels Affair’s Leon Michels (sax, keys), The Shacks‘ Shannon Wise (backing vocals), The Roots’ Dave Guy (trumpet), Nick Movshon (bass) and Spring’s wife Sophia Heymans (piano).

Earlier this year, I wrote about the album’s first single “Broom.” Tracing its origins back to the band’s first tour with Lee Fields, the track is a shimmering and mournful bit of blue-eyed soul meets 60s folk. “At the time, we were a folk trio with nylon guitars playing Nick Drake inspired arrangements,” the band’s Homer Steinweiss recalls in press notes. “These songs did not go over too well with the So-Cal soul audience. Inspired by Lee’s music, we saw a need to write a more soulful song to appeal to them. After covering Donnie and Joe Emerson’s ‘Baby’ in San Diego, Joe made some chords, Homer laid a beat and paul activated the falsetto to make this tune.” Interestingly, “Float Back To You,” the slow-burning and shimmering third album single and album title track is a achingly plaintive ballad that further cements the band’s sound — in particular, I’m reminded Simon & Garfunkel, Scott Walker and blue-eyed sound.

Featuring line animation by Sophia Heymans, the recently released video for “Float Back To You,” the video manages to capture those things we can’t quite have — carefree summer afternoons and nights, while following a woman, who decides to take various garden gnomes, rocking horses and the like into her home to read to them.  It’s a simple yet surreal fantasy centered around the sort of feverish nostalgia we all have right now. 

The rising Lincoln, NE-based soul and funk act Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal — Josh Hoyer (vocals, keys), Blake DeForest (trumpet), Mike Keeling (bass), Benjamin Kushner (guitar) Harrison El Dorado (drums) — formed back in 2012, and since their formation, the act, which features some of the Lincoln area’s most acclaimed musicians, has received attention nationally and internationally for a boundary crossing sound inspired by the sounds of Stax Records, Motown Records, Muscle Shoals, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The Lincoln-based quintet have developed a reputation for being of the area’s hardest working bands: releasing four, critically applauded albums, including last year’s Do It Now, the members of the rising soul act have played hundreds of shows and have made several tours across the Continental United States and two European tours, opening for the George Clinton,Charles Bradley, Booker T. Jones, and Muscle Shoals Soul Revue and others.

Further cementing their reputation as one of the Plain States’ hardest working bands, the members of the Lincoln-based soul act will be releasing their Eddie Roberts-produced fifth later later this year through Color Red Records. “Hustler,” the album’s cinematic, third and latest single is a strutting bit of soul, prominently featuring Hoyer’s soulful, Tom Jones-like vocals, a commanding horn arrangement, a sinuous bass line, shimmering organ arpeggios and an enormous and rousingly anthemic hook. While seemingly possessing elements of The Payback-era James Brown, 70s Motown, Muscle Shoals, Daptone and Memphis soul in a seamless yet period specific synthesis, the upbeat track manages to be one-part much-needed proverbial kick in the ass and one part much-needed rallying cry for our unprecedented and uncertain moment, centered around the assuring yet forceful line “When the world wants you to sink or swim, I ain’t goin’ under.”

Things may be bleak right now but keep fighting y’all. There’s much hard and necessary work to be done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nick Hakim Releases a Gorgeous and Surreal Visual for Atmospheric “Bouncing”

I’ve written quite a bit about the critically applauded, Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay  Nick Hakim over the past handful of years. Hakim’s 2017 full-length debut, Green Twins was written after he had completed   Where Will We Go Part 1 EP and Where We Will Go Part 2 EP and relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. 

After getting himself settled in, he quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording song sketches sing his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder. He fleshed out the sketches as much as possible and then took his demo’d material to various studios in New York, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

Thematically, the album’s material focused one specific experiences, feelings and thoughts he had during the time he was writing and composting it, and as a result the album is a series of different self-portraits that generally captures its creator in broad strokes — but if you pay close attention, you pick up on subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Sonically, Green Twins was drew from a broad and eclectic array of influences including Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye, Shuggie Otis and My Bloody Valentine and others. “We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins,” Hakim said in press at the time.

Since the release of Green Twins, Hakim has also developed a reputation as a highly sought-after, go-to collaborator working with Lianna La Havas, Anderson .Paak, Onyx Collective, Sporting Life, IGBO, Nappy Nina, Ambrose Akinmusire, Slingbaum, FKA Twins and Oumou Sangare. Now, as you may recall, Hakim’s highly-anticipated sophomore album WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD is slated for a May 15, 2020 release through ATO Records. 

Interestingly, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD reportedly represents a tonal shift from its predecessor with the album’s material reflecting the ideas that he had grappled with while writing and recording it. 

“I feel the people simmering, on our way to the boiling point. There’s a lot of madness going on around us and this world can feel so cold. It can get hard to remember what makes it worth it. The people around me and the music I love helps.” Hakim writes in a statement on the album. 

“For a while, I couldn’t write. I worked on new music but couldn’t find the right words. But that time was just a build-up to the three months of expression that led to this album. I hope this music will raise awareness about where we are right now. About how we are living on this planet. About how we treat our neighbors. About community. About depression. About what can heal us and what can’t. About overmedication, overstimulation and manipulation. About respecting and loving the people around us, because one day they won’t be here — or you won’t.

But it’s also true that I’m still trying to figure this record out. People have told me that it’s confusing or that it’s messy-that’s fine. There’s so much pressure on artists to commit to being one thing, or to restrict an album to exploring just one subject or sound. But my life isn’t like that, and so my music can’t be like that either. I’m not thinking about this music as a product to be bought and sold, or how I’ll buy your interest. This is my world; a lot of friends touched this record, and that makes me feel lucky and proud. These songs are glimpses into my community. I’m exploring, but I’m not alone. It’s a journey in progress; it’s an experiment, every day.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about the slow-burning and atmospheric “QADIR,” a fever dream of ache and longing that brings up psych pop, psych soul and 70s soul simultaneously.  “QADIR” was the first song that Hakim wrote for the album with the track being an ode to a late friend, and a urgent and plaintive reminder to check in on your loved ones before it’s too late. “BOUNCING,” WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD’s third and latest single is a delicate and atmospheric track centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitar, blown out and distorted drums, gently swirling feedback paired with Hakim’s aching falsetto expressing a vulnerable yearning for companionship and warmth on a bitterly cold day — and knowing that it won’t come any time soon. “BOUNCING” is a sound bath where I wrote about one of the coldest days in New York I remember, while lying in my bed, restless by a radiator. It’s about feeling uneasy,” Hakim says in press notes. 

Directed by Nelson Nance, the recently released video for “BOUNCING” continues Hakim’s ongoing visual collaboration with the director while serving as a sequel to “QADIR.” The video follows Hakim and a small collection of attendees to a surreal event that becomes a spectacle that’s recorded by the attendees. But it asks much larger questions of the viewer: “”The ‘BOUNCING’ video asks the viewer to question our drive to find spectacles and how the pursuit of such can lead to becoming a spectacle,” Nelson explains in press notes. “There is nothing inherently wrong with viewing or being a spectacle but I think it’s healthy to question if our energy is being put in the right place when interfacing with what draws our attention.” 

James Chatburn is a rapidly rising Sydney-born, Berlin-based singer/songwriter and producer. With the release of his first two EPs -which he followed with  a string of critically applauded and commercially successful collaborations, including Aussie hip-hop act’s Hilltop Hoods‘ certified Gold single “Higher,” the Aussie-born, German-based singer/songwriter and producer quickly established himself as one of the contemporary soul’s hottest new talents, developing a sound that seamlessly meshes elements of soul, blues, contemporary electro pop and neo soul. Adding to growing profile, Chatburn has toured with Jordan Rakei and The Internet.

Chatburn’s highly-anticipated full-length debut, Fable is slated for release later this year, and the album reportedly finds the Sydney-born, Berlin-based artist further establishing the warm, soulful sound that has won him attention internationally in the contemporary soul scene — but while pushing his sound in a subtly psychedelic direction. The album sonically draws from Unknown Mortal Orchestra, D’angelo, Donny Hathaway and Shuggie Otis among others. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “In My House” is centered around a two-step inducing groove featuring sinuous bass lines, shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars and thumping beats paired with Chatburn’s gravelly and effortlessly soulful vocals. While decidedly a warm and vibey neo-soul song, the song is centered around introspective and earnest songwriting.

“This piece asks the question of who we allow into our lives and why we do so, the ones which we allow close can leave so much behind when they dive into our being, so it is wise to be careful,” Chatburn explains in press notes. “The song came together quicker then any other song I have ever written, Ironically I used the chopped up recorded drums from another song which was supposed to be included on the upcoming Album Faible, a song I reformatted and re-wrote 4 times to be left discarded. All of the other instruments and vocals are the original recordings from the first day of writing.”