Over the past few years, the Akron, OH-based funk septet Wesley Bright and The Honeytones, currently featuring Wesley Bright (vocals), Jonathan Fields (drums), Matthew Derubertis (bass), Jimmy Parsons (guitar), Nathan-Paul Davis (sax), Matt Garrett (trumpet) and Max Brady (trombone) have become a regional favorite among soul music fans and vinyl collectors — thanks in part to Bright’s vocals, which have been compared to Al Green and Otis Redding and to the group’s sound, which attempt to bridge the gap between classic soul and the modern sound. The band has gone through some changes both in personal and sound, and the act’s latest Leroi Conroy-produced 45 RPM single “Happiness”/”You Don’t Want Me,” which was released through Colemine Records reportedly represents the band’s new sonic direction. And while still clearly indebted to classic soul, the stomping and strutting “Happiness” brings to mind the G.E.D. Soul Records artists DeRobert and the Half-Truths and AJ and the Jiggawatts, as the song balances plaintive and earnest sweetness with a gritty toughness. It’s a song in which its narrator is fed up with a love interest, who he feels is playing with him and his emotions when all he wants is to love, be loved and be happy. “Happiness” has arguably one of the best bass lines I’ve heard this entire year paired with a horn section that brings to mind Daptone Records, Hannah Williams and the Affirmations and others.
The B-side “You Don’t Want Me” is a slow-burning soul number that nods at Otis Redding and Muscle Shoals, as it’s centered around a arrangement of bluesy and twangy guitar, a shuffling bass line and organ line, and Bright’s easygoing vocals, which manage to evoke plaintive ache, stubborn pride and longing within a turn of a phrase. From these two tracks, I think we’ll be hearing much more about Wesley Bright and his Honeytones.