Tag: Bill Withers

Lyric Video: JOVM Mainstay Nana Adjoa Releases a Skittish and Hopeful Ode to Change

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Amsterdam-born and-based Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter  and multi-instrumetnalist  Nana Adjoa.  And with the release of her debut effort Down at the Root, Part 1, the Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter received attention across the European Union for an easy-going and warm 70s singer/songwriter soul sound and approach that brought Bill Withers and others.

The Dutch-born JOVM mainstay can trace the origins of her music career to when she joined her first band as a teenager. At the time, she chose to play bass because “every other instrument had been claimed,” she recalls with a laugh. Unbeknownst to Adjoa, her mother had once played bass in a Ghanian Highlife band and still happened to have her guitar. Adjoa went on to the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she studied jazz — electric bass and double bass; however, she found the experience wasn’t what she imagined it to be. “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.”

Interestingly, around the same time, Adjoa bean to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying in school and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while jamming with friends, outside of school.  She quickly realized that pursuing a solo career was the best direction for her, so she recruited local musicians and started recording her own material. Since the release of Down at the Root, Part 1 and its follow-up, Down at the Root, Part 2, Adjoa has developed a reputation for being a restless sonic explorer, who has crafted material centered around deft poeticism and an adventurous yet accessible sense of musicianship. Adjoa set out to write her full-length debut at the beginning of last year. Working in her own studio, she not only had the freedom to write and record songs nearly simultaneously, she had a wide palette of instruments at her disposal. The end result is her forthcoming full-length debut, the Wannes Salomé-produced Big Dreaming Ants, slated for a September 24, 2020 release.

Reportedly lush yet delicate, intimate yet expansive and moody yet hopeful, the album’s material is features a diverse array of multi-layered tonal textures — including thumb piano, vibraphone and a vintage harmonium along with guitar, bass, vocals, etc. Although Adjoa — who, typically plays guitar on stage — handled, the majority of the album’s instrumentation herself, the album features a collection of Amsterdam’s finest players collaborating with her, including the members of her live band: Mats Voshol (drums), Daniel van Loenen (trombone), Tim Schakel (guitar), Jonas Pap (strings) and Eelco Topper (vibraphone). Thematically,  the album reveals a young artist poised to make a clear and concise artistic statement, in which she continues an ongoing search for identity while pondering life’s great philosophical questions. “For me,” she says, “music is a way to believe in something deeper.”

So far I’ve written about two of the album’s previously released singles: the shimmering, hook driven “Throw Stones,” which featured a narrator desperately trying to calm themself and their emotions in the face of internet trolls, digital clashes and the overall uncertainty of our world — and the trippy and expansive “No Room,” which featured elements of shoegaze, indie rock and Afro pop. “I Want to Change,” Big Dreaming Ants’ latest single is a delicate, track centered around plucked strings, atmospheric electronics and Adjoa’s achingly tender vocals, the track expresses a skittish yet hopeful view of change and evolution — both internally and externally. Massive changes are coming y’all — and we all know it.

“The desire to change is a weird feeling and brings with it a dichotomy of emotions. You get a sense of wanting to move forward, of getting out of a (perhaps self-imposed) rut, but you also fear leaving behind the comfort and security of what you know,” Adjoa says. “With ‘I Want To Change,’ I’m giving space to an inner voice that quietly yearns for change and amplifying it in a way, calling for change that speaks to both the global and individual scale. I wrote the song over a year ago, now placing it in the context of the current state of the world, that inner voice feels more like a call to action for myself.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Nana Adjoa Releases a Cinematic and Symbolic Visual for Shimmering “No Room”

I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Amsterdam-born and-based Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter  and multi-instrumetnalist  Nana Adjoa over the past few years. And with the release of her debut effort Down at the Root, Part 1, the Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter received attention across the European Union for an easy-going, 70s singer/songwriter soul sound and approach that brought Bill Withers and others.

The Dutch-born JOVM mainstay can trace the origins of her music career to when she joined her first band as a teenager. At the time, she chose to play bass because “every other instrument had been claimed,” she recalls with a laugh. Unbeknownst to Adjoa, her mother had once played bass in a Ghanian Highlife band and still happened to have her guitar.

Adjoa went on to the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she studied jazz — electric bass and double bass; however, she found the experience wasn’t what she imagined it to be. “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.” Interestingly, around the same time, Adjoa bean to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying in school and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while jamming with friends, outside of school.  She quickly realized that pursuing a solo career was the best direction for her, so she recruited local musicians and started recording her own material.

Since the release of Down at the Root, Part 1 and its follow-up, Down at the Root, Part 2, Adjoa has developed a reputation for being a restless sonic explorer, who has crafted material centered around deft poeticism and an adventurous yet accessible sense of musicianship. Adjoa set out to write her full-length debut at the beginning of last year. Working in her own studio, she not only had the freedom to write and record songs nearly simultaneously, she had a wide palette of instruments at her disposal. The end result is her forthcoming full-length debut, the Wannes Salomé-produced Big Dreaming Ants, slated for a September 24, 2020 release. 

Reportedly lush yet delicate, intimate yet expansive and moody yet hopeful, the album’s material is features a diverse array of multi-layered tonal textures — including thumb piano, vibraphone and a vintage harmonium along with guitar, bass, vocals, etc. Although Adjoa — who, typically plays guitar on stage — handled, the majority of the album’s instrumentation herself, the album features a collection of Amsterdam’s finest players collaborating with her, including the members of her live band: Mats Voshol (drums), Daniel van Loenen (trombone), Tim Schakel (guitar), Jonas Pap (strings) and Eelco Topper (vibraphone). Thematically,  the album reveals a young artist poised to make a clear and concise artistic statement, in which she continues an ongoing search for identity while pondering life’s great philosophical questions. “For me,” she says, “music is a way to believe in something deeper.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about album single, the shimmering “Throw Stones.” Centered around a radio friendly hook, fluttering flutes, fuzzy synths, and a looping guitar line, the song features a narrator, desperately trying to calm themselves and their emotions in the face of internet trolls, digital clashes and overall uncertainty. Big Dreaming Ants’ third and latest single “No Room” is a decidedly trippy affair featuring  shimmering guitars, a strutting and sinuous  bass line, atmospheric electronics, twinkling blasts of keys, an expansive song structure, and Adjoa’s gorgeous vocals, the song may be the most expansive song of her career, as it has elements of shoegaze, indie rock and Afro pop. 

Directed by Rudy Aisbey, the recently released video for “No Room” is a cinematic and highly symbolic visual that make connections between Adjoa’s Ghanian roots and her Dutch upbringing, the passion for music that she can trace back to being small, the cultural misunderstandings between child and parent — especially when the child does something unusual. 

“The vision was to bring Nana’s duality in culture and music together,” Rudy Aisbey says in press notes. “Her name stands for so much more in Ghanaian culture. Nana means king/queen and Adjoa is her day name (Monday) which stands for peacemaker. For me, Nana’s music is a journey to finding the answers to life. Nana guides us with music to help us find those answers. I wanted to bring that journey to life in the visuals. In this video we see more of her Ghanaian culture and a journey to finding self— even though people want to put you in a box or want you to become someone else. In the end, she chooses herself. As Nana’s name represents, I hope her music guides people to choose for themselves, to learn more about their heritage in order to gain learnings from heritage and grow. Especially in these times, it is important to know where you’re from, in order to know where you’re going. We could all use a peacemaker.”

Over the past couple of years, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the acclaimed Bristol, UK-based soul singer/songwriter and JOVM mainstay Hannah Williams. Williams can trace some of the origins of her music career to growing up in an extremely musical household: her father  was a musician and  minister. Interestingly, the acclaimed British singer/songwriter and soul artist  learned how to read music before she could read words —  and as the story goes, when she was a young girl, her mother introduced her to  Motown and Bill Withers, which wound up transforming her life. As the story goes, Williams’ mother quickly recognized that Williams had a natural gift and encouraged her to join the church choir.

With  “Work It Out,” off 2012’s full-length debut Hill of Feathers, Williams and her first backing band The Tastemakers, emerged into national and international soul circles with the track receiving attention across the blogosphere and airplay on radio stations across the States, Australia and the European Union. At one point “Work It Out” was one of the most downloaded songs in Greece with the video amassing over 1.5 million streams on YouTube.

Building upon a growing profile, Williams played sets across the European festival circuit, including stops at Shambala Festival, Valley Fest, Wilderness Festival, Cambridge Jazz Festival and Larmer Tree Festival, as well as some of Europe’s most renowned clubs, including Hamburg, Germany‘s Mojo; Manchester, UK’s Band on the Wall; and Camden, UK‘s Jazz Cafe with the likes of JOVM mainstays  Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, and Charles Bradley, as well as Cat Power.

Williams’ 2016 Michael Cotto-produced sophomore album Late Nights and Heartbreak was the first recorded output with her current backing band, the Bristol-based soul outfit, The Affirmations — currently, James Graham (organ, piano and Wurlitzer), Adam Holgate (guitar), Adam Newton (bass), Jai Widdowson-Jones (drums), Nicholas Malcolm (trumper), Liam Treasure (trombone), Victoria Klewin (baritone saxophone) and Hannah Nicholson (backing vocals) — and the album further established Williams’ growing profile across the international soul scene.

Over the course of the following year, Hannah Williams and The Affirmations received even greater international attention, after smash hit-making producer  NO I.D. sampled the heart aching hook of  “Late Nights and Heartbreak” for Jay-Z‘s “4:44.” “It was an incredible catalyst,” Williams says in press notes, “as a change in our collective career, and getting a global audience. Suddenly, there were millions of predominantly American hip-hop fans listening to my voice, going ‘Is this from the ’60s? Is she dead?’” Unsurprisingly, as a  result of the attention they received from “4:44,” the rising soul act spent the better part of 2018 on the most extensive touring schedule of their collective careers, including stops at SummerStage, Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, Brooklyn Bowl, the Toronto Jazz Festival and across the European Union, where they expanded their fanbase.

With even more attention on them, Williams and company were determined to make the record of their lives. The end result was their Shawn Lee produced effort, last year’s  50 Foot Woman. The album finds the band accurately capturing the visceral power of their live show on wax — white further establishing a sound that generally draws from classic soul, psych soul and funk, with a subtly modern take.

Much like countless other bands across the world, Williams and her Affirmations have been enjoying connecting with their fans and followers in a whole new way during the past few months of COVID-19 imposed quarantines and lockdowns. Putting some of their musical direction in the hands of their loyal following for the first time, the band put a cover song choice to a vote — and the result was the challenge of covering Nirvana’s classic, smash-hit “Heart-Shaped Box.”

Naturally, because the acclaimed JOVM mainstays operate in a completely different genre and style than Nirvana, they craft a slow-burning, horn-driven take on the grunge rock classic that retains the brooding and uneasy quality of the original — while putting the song into a contemporary context. Of course, what the Hannah Williams and The Affirmations cover should remind the listener of a fundamental fact: great compositions and great songs can translate across different genres and styles if embraced and adapted with care, so that the intent and purpose of the original isn’t messed with or altered too much.

Through countless back and forth with their mixing engineer and rapid advancements to each of their home recording setups, the band managed to record and sculpt the song despite lockdown restrictions. And it was done in a way that sounds as though the band were all in the studio together.

“This release is an ode to the world and its struggles” the band says, “a nod to the past but also a move into the future, and most of all a tribute to all the amazing people who continue to not only support our band but also all the important messaging and movements we try to encourage through our art and influence.”
 

 

 

 

 

Lyric Video: JOVM Mainstay Nana Adjoa Releases a Forward-Thinking Yet Accessible New Single

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the rising Amsterdam-born and-based Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter  Nana Adjoa — and as you may recall, with the release of her debut effort Down at the Root, Part 1, the Ghanian-Dutch singer/songwriter began to receive attention across the European Union for an easy-going, 70s singer/songwriter soul sound reminiscent of Bill Withers and others. 

Adjoa can trace the origins of her professional career back to when she was accepted at the prestigious Amsterdam Conservatory, where she studied jazz — electric bass and double bass; however, however, she found the experience wasn’t what she imagined it to be. “It was very much like school,” she says in press notes. “We thought we wanted to go to the most difficult department, that we wanted to be the best, but it wasn’t a very fun experience.”

Interestingly, around the same time, Adjoa bean to experience a growing divide between the restrictive and theoretical compositions she was studying in school and the melodic, free-flowing music she’d play while jamming with friends, outside of school.  She quickly realized that pursuing a solo career was the best direction for her, so she recruited local musicians and started recording her own material. 

Since the release of Down at the Root, Part 1 and Down at the Root, Part 2, Adjoa has developed a reputation for being a restless sonic explorer, who crafts material centered around deft poeticism and an adventurous yet accessible sense of musicianship. The JOVM mainstay’s highly-anticipated full-length debut is slated for release this fall. The forthcoming album’s second and latest single “Throw Stones” features shimmering and looping guitar figure, metronomic-like drumming, brief blasts of handclaps and fluttering flute  and fuzzy synth arpeggios and a brooding string arrangement paired with Adjoa’s plaintive vocals — and it’s all held together with an infectious hook. And while the song manages to be radio friendly, the song is much murkier under its surface, as its narrator is trying to calm a rumbling anxiousness. 

“This song is about me calming myself down in difficult times. To feel, regroup, and reflect,” Adjoa says in press notes. “If you need that right now, to feel it to embrace it and slowly heal, you can listen to this song and count to 10. You don’t always have to be ‘on’, you are allowed to take time, to rest and come back feeling refreshed, better and stronger. I hope this song gives you pause, time to breathe.”

Interview: A Q&A with I AM SNOW ANGEL’s Julie Kathryn

Julie Kathryn is a New York-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, sound designer, producer and creative mastermind behind I AM SNOW ANGEL, a critically applauded solo recording project that has received critical praise from the likes of Huffington PostIndie ShuffleMagnetic MagazineCreem MagazineRefinery 29All Things Go and others.

The acclaimed New York-based artist and producer has developed a reputation as a highly sought after sound designer and producer working with Ableton and Splice.com – and she’s the co-founder of Female Frequency, a musical collective dedicated to empowering women and girls in the music industry.

JulieAtWork_FinalEdits_10.6.18-2-13
Photo Credit: Julia Drummond

TowerOfSONG

Last year, Julie Kathryn released her I AM SNOW ANGEL full-length debut MOTHERSHIP. Recorded in a cabin in the wintry Adirondack woods, the album is a concept album that touched upon themes of isolation, longing, love, paranoia and the paranormal. Since, the release of MOTHERSHIP, the New York-based artist, producer, sound designer has managed to be rather busy: she gave birth to her first child, collaborated on Sophie Colette’s attention-grabbing “In Love a Little,” and continuing on the momentum of a rather big year for her both personally and professionally, the New York-based recently released a gorgeous and spectral cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song,” featuring shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars, atmospheric synths and Julie Kathryn’s vocals. Interestingly, her interpretation of the song is centered around a plaintive yearning and vulnerability.

I recently exchanged emails with the I AM SNOW ANGEL mastermind for this edition of the JOVM Q&A. For this interview, we discuss the difficult balance of one’s creative live with being a parent, her collaboration with Sophie Colette, leveling the playing field for women producers and of course, her aforementioned cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” Additionally, as a result of governments across the world closing bars, restaurants, nightclubs and music venues to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the impact on the music industry – especially on small and mid-sized independent venues and the indie touring artists, who grace their stages has been devastating. Much like the other artists, I’ve interviewed this year, I’ll continue to ask artists how they’re getting by, how they’re keeping busy and of course, how this period is impacting their careers.

Julie Kathryn’s full-length album Mothership and her rendition of “Tower of Song” – and below the jump, check out the interview.

_______
 

WRH: You’re a new mommy. So before we start: Happy belated Mother’s Day. How do you balance the obligations and responsibilities of motherhood with your creative and professional life?

Julie Kathryn: Thank you! Being a mother is wonderful. It’s definitely been challenging to balance everything. Taking care of a baby feels like a full time job, as I expected it would, but I didn’t realize all the ways that I personally would be changed by motherhood – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Everything feels different now. I’m finding a way to make music in this new normal and I’m excited to see how it turns out.

 WRH: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions in almost every aspect of our lives. For most of us, the seemingly indefinite fear, anxiety, uncertainty, loneliness and boredom of the past few months of social distancing and quarantines have been overwhelming. How have you been holding up?  How have you been keeping busy? Binge watching anything?

 JK: This is such a strange and uncertain time. I try to make a gratitude list every day to keep me balanced and thankful, particularly for my health. Also, I’m lucky that I have a clear and immediate purpose right now – to take care of my son! He keeps me focused and in the moment. I’m very grateful to be able to spend this time with him. In my free time, when I can find some, I make music, practice yoga and yes, binge watch! Dead to Me (Netflix) and Breeders (FX) are two of my recent favorites.

 WRH: How did you get into music?

JK: I’ve always been very musical. I took piano lessons as a kid. I taught myself how to play the guitar during high school. For a while, I was an acoustic/Americana singer-songwriter. Eventually, I started engineering and producing my own material, and it became much more electronic. That’s how this project – I AM SNOW ANGEL – was born.

WRH: How would you describe your sound for those, who may be unfamiliar with I Am Snow Angel?

 Dream pop. Melodic, electronic. Ambient and earthy at the same time.

 WRH: Who are your influences?

 JK: For this project, I was definitely inspired by Imogen Heap, Portishead, The Postal Service, Massive Attack, and other electronic and trip hop acts. Over the years, there are a lot of songwriters that I’ve studied, like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Bill Withers. The National is a band whose albums I’ve played on repeat for months at a time. I also love the artistry of Thom Yorke, Lou Reed, David Lynch. I love moody electronic soundscapes by artists like Trentemøller and The Knife, and 80s synth /new wave music like Roxy Music and Yaz. I also spent a lot of time listening to late 90s female R&B —  Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Macy Gray.  The list goes on and on and it’s hard to encapsulate it.

WRH: Who are you listening to right now?

JK: Today, I’m listening to meditative sounds – Max Richter, Brian Eno. Recently, I’ve also been listening to rootsy alternative rock (Wilco, Neko Case, Sharon Van Etten).

 WRH: Earlier this year, you collaborated with Sophie Colette on “In Love a Little.” As you know, I wrote about the song earlier this year – and in a lengthy statement for the song, Colette wrote:

“Working with Julie was an amazing experience – it was very hands on and communicative. We sat side by side and made decisions together from the tracing to the comping to the mixing. I learned so much about Ableton and the possibility of different soundscapes that could be created outside of traditional instrumentation.

 It became apparent to me, that working with a female producer, who inherently applied these types of sounds to her own work, came with the advantage of being able to feel the same nuances of emotion without having to explain them to each other. Each session was an open-ended conversation and quite nurturing to be honest. Something about that female-to-female energy in a room is really powerful when the ego isn’t there.”

How was it like to collaborate with Sophie Colette? Do you find it easier to collaborate with women artists and producers?

JK: Working with Sophie was a lot of fun. I really like how our collaboration turned out. We were able to tease out some interesting emotional undertones in her song. I remember her showing me moody photos of an urban landscape at night in the aftermath of a storm, with the city’s colored lights reflecting in puddles on the dark streets.  She said, “this is my inspiration for the bridge.” We spent the day sonically recreating this idea, and it became the soundscape for the bridge of her song. It was a really organic process. I do end up working with a lot of female artists, and I find that we often have similar communication styles and a shared experience of coming up in the music industry.

WRH: How do we level the playing field, so that there are more women producers?

JK: For me, being visible as a female producer who can do it all – instrumentation, engineering, sound design, mixing – is important. When I was starting out in production, it really helped me to see other women who were doing it. Also, when I work with other artists, I share my knowledge and encourage them to learn production and engineering, in whatever capacity is appealing to them.

 WRH: What advice would you give for women artists and producers trying to make it?

JK: Have fun!! The process of producing music is intense and quite involved, so it needs to be a fulfilling one. If the production process is merely viewed as a means to an end (ie, the finished product), it’s more likely to feel like a chore or an insurmountable feat. But, if the very act of creating music is thrilling and emotionally rewarding, the finished product is just the icing on the cake – a bonus. Don’t worry about doing it “right.” There are many ways to produce music. When possible, seek out mentors and collaborators who support and elevate you.

WRH: You recently released a slow-burning and atmospheric cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song.” What drew you to the song?

JK: I love Leonard Cohen. His songwriting and performance style have inspired me for a long time.  I first visited the song a few years back when my dear friend Gus Rodriguez (he performs under the name Silbin Sandovar and is a wonderful musician, talent buyer, and connector of artists in NYC and beyond) asked me to cover a few Leonard Cohen songs in a tribute show he was putting together. I immediately felt connected to the lyrical content of this song, to the existential themes of isolation and loneliness that Cohen associated with being a songwriter.

 WRH: Instead of a straightforward note-by-note cover, you turn Cohen’s song into your song. Was that an intentional decision – and was that a difficult thing to do, considering how beloved his work is?

JK: It wasn’t really intentional. It felt very natural for me to re-imagine the song in this way, and I didn’t overthink it.

 WRH: So what’s next for you?

JK: I’m working on a new EP. In some ways, it’s a sequel to MOTHERSHIP, which I put out last year. So far, it feels ambient, emotional and layered. We’ll see where it goes. I’ll keep you posted. And thank you for talking with me!!

Throwback: RIP Bill Withers

I had some loose-held editorial plans for the site over the next 24-36 hours or so but when I saw a friend’s Facebook post on Bill Withers’ death, I scrapped those plans for a little bit. We’ve heard most of Withers’ work so much that it’s part of our collective consciousness — and yet, the songs hold up and resonate 40 some years after their initial release. They’re that timeless. And I suspect that kids 50 years from now, will hear the same things that our folks and we have heard in the material. Long live, Bill Withers! 

I came across some live footage of Withers shot in 1972 and 1973. The 1973 footage shot by the BBC may be the most famous of the two, and as a photographer it’s intimate, capturing Withers with some tight close ups, in which he seems to explode into your living room. 

Also before, I forget Still Bill is arguably one of the best albums ever written and recorded. Nuff said. 

New Video: Rising British Singer Songwriter Jordan Mackampa Releases an Ebullient Visual for “Magic”

Jordan Mackampa is a rising London-born and-based Congolese-British singer/songwriter. With the release of “Under,” 2016’s Physics EP, and 2017’s Tales From The Broken EP and Live from the Grand Cru EP, Mackampa has received critical praise from NME, The 405, The Line of Best Fit, Clash, Indie Shuffle, Wonderland and others while his work amassed over 50 million Spotify streams.

Mackampa’s work is inspired by his Congolese roots and his mother’s love of legendary soul singers like Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield. And as a result, the Congolese-British singer/songwriter has developed a reputation for pairing old-school singer/songwriter soul, earnest songwriting and catchy melodies with a modern songwriting approach. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you may recall that Mackampa’s highly anticipated, full-length debut Foreigner is slated for a March 13, 2020 release through AWAL.  

Reportedly, the album’s material draws from the sounds and stories of the cities he’s spent time in and inhabited over the years, and while documenting his life as an outsider, the material’s sound is a melting pot of cultures that draws from his birthplace in the Republic of the Congo, his mom’s classic soul record collection, hip-hop obsessed childhood in North London, and his Coventry, UK-based teen years, immersed in indie rock — and all of that meshes together to create a hybrid of alternative pop, soul and indie rock. 

Late last year, I wrote about “Parachutes,” a breezy and deliberately crafted track centered around a radio friendly yet loose arrangement of twinkling keys, shimmering guitars, a sinuous bass line and propulsive drumming pared with Mackampa’s easygoing vocals, evoking the soaring highs of being in love and the embittering low of heartache within the turn of a phrase.  The album’s latest single “Magic” is a breezy and swinging pop song that reveals Mackampa’s genre-defying sound: the song draws from old school soul, Bossa nova and samba simultaneously. “This is a bossa nova and samba-infused feel good kinda track about when you can’t get someone off your mind,” Mackampa says in press notes. “”You’ve had one taste and you want more!”

Directed by longtime collaborator Tom Ewbank and featuring choreography from Taali Kwaten, the recently released video for “Magic” was filmed in a South London underpass is centered around the Congolese-British singer/songwriter and his backing band performing the song in front of a collection of diverse partiers, who dance the night around.  The video manages to further emphasize the song’s ebullient joy of being infatuated by new love. 

Jose James is a Minneapolis, MN-born singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer, who has spent his career bouncing around genres and styles at will: he spent a decade reshaping jazz with the genre-blurring verve of a crate-digging beat guru — and while receiving accolades for his early work, became a solo R&B star. Interestingly, after spending the past couple of years recording and touring with Bill Withers‘ legendary songbook for the Lean on Me project, the critically applauded singer/songwriter guitarist and producer returns to his own original work with the forthcoming release of the highly-anticipated No Beginning No End 2, the follow up — and sequel — to his critically applauded 2013 effort, No Beginning No End, an effort that featured a crowd-pleasing eclecticism.

Of course several things have changed since the release of No Beginning No End. The highly-anticipated follow up and sequel is James’ first release on his own Rainbow Blonde Records, an independent record label, multi-disciplinary collective and open-spirited community founded by Talia Billig, Brian Bender and James on a few simple principles:

  • it’s run by artists for artists,
  • it’s a one-stop shop with a superstar in-house crew,
  • music is culture — not product
  • none of it works if you’re not having fun doing it

Deeply inspired by Janelle Monae‘s Wondaland Arts Society,Flying LotusBrainfeeder and Solange’s Saint Heron, Rainbow Blonde is space designed to allow artists to be creative without feeling inundated or pressured by the confines of big business. As for the album’s material, it features an eclectic and impressive cast of collaborators including Laura Mvula, Aloe Blacc, Ledisi, Lizz Wright, Erik Truffaz, Hindi Zahra and more paired with a backing band which featured Brett Williams, Kris Bowers, and Takeshi Ohbayashi playing keys; Marcus Machado, Alan Hampton and album co-producer Brian Bender playing guitar; Ben williams on bass; Quetzal‘s Alberto Lopez. Reportedly, the end result is some of the warmest and most defined material James has written and released — that also manages to draw on the Afro-Latin tinged sounds of 70s soul.

Late last year, I wrote about No Beginning No End 2‘s first single, the strutting “Turn Me Up.” Featuring a guest spot from Aloe Blacc, the track was centered round a warm, classic soul-inspired arrangement twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, copious amount of congo, twinkling and arpeggiated keys, funky bursts of guitar and an infectious hook. Interestingly, while balancing ambitious songwriting and deliberate attention to craft while nodding at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Heatwave, Stevie Wonder and others. “You Know What It Do,” No Beginning No End 2‘s second and latest single is a mischievous and joyful strut, centered around strummed acoustic guitar, a sinuous bass line and an infectious hook. And much like its predecessor, the song finds James and his backing band balancing craft with a free-flowing, jam-like vibe.

James will be embarking on a tour to build up buzz and then support No Beginning No End 2 and the tour includes a March 25, 2020 stop at Bowery Ballroom. Check out the tour dates below.

Tour Dates
2/12: Tokyo, JP @ Billboard Live
2/14: Osaka, JP @ Billboard Live
3/21: Denver, CO @ Dazzle Jazz
3/22: Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room
3/25: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
3/27: Washington, DC @ The Hamilton Live
5/7: Evanston, IL @ SPACE
5/8-9: Minneapolis, MN @ Dakota

Jose James is a Minneapolis, MN-born singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer, who has spent his career bouncing around genres and styles at will: he spent a decade reshaping jazz with the genre-blurring verve of a crate-digging beat guru — and while receiving accolades for his early work, became a solo R&B star. Interestingly, after spending the past couple of years recording and touring with Bill Withers‘ legendary songbook for the Lean on Me project, the critically applauded singer/songwriter guitarist and producer returns to his own original work with the forthcoming release of the highly-anticipated No Beginning No End 2, the follow up — and sequel — to his critically applauded 2013 effort, No Beginning No End, an effort that featured a crowd-pleasing eclecticism.

Of course several things have changed since the release of No Beginning No End. The highly-anticipated follow up and sequel is James’ first release on his own Rainbow Blonde Records, an independent record label, multi-disciplinary collective and open-spirited community founded by Talia Billig, Brian Bender and James on a few simple principles:

  • it’s run by artists for artists,
  • it’s a one-stop shop with a superstar in-house crew,
  • music is culture — not product
  • none of it works if you’re not having fun doing it

Deeply inspired by Janelle Monae‘s Wondaland Arts Society,Flying LotusBrainfeeder and Solange’s Saint Heron, Rainbow Blonde is space designed to allow artists to be creative without feeling inundated or pressured by the confines of big business. As for the album’s material, it features an eclectic and impressive cast of collaborators including Laura Mvula, Aloe Blacc, Ledisi, Lizz Wright, Erik Truffaz, Hindi Zahra and more paired with a backing band which featured Brett Williams, Kris Bowers, and Takeshi Ohbayashi playing keys; Marcus Machado, Alan Hampton and album co-producer Brian Bender playing guitar; Ben williams on bass; Quetzal‘s Alberto Lopez. Reportedly, the end result is some of the warmest and most defined material James has written and released — that also manages to draw on the Afro-Latin tinged sounds of 70s soul.

No Beginning No End 2‘s first single is the strutting “Turn Me Up.” Centered around a warm, classic soul-inspired arrangement featuring twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, copious amount of congo, twinkling, arpeggiated keys, funky bursts of guitar, effortlessly soulful vocals from James and Aloe Blacc and an infectious hook the song manages to balance ambition and craft with a jam-like vibe, while nodding at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Heatwave, Stevie Wonder and others.

James will be embarking on a tour to build up buzz and then support No Beginning No End 2 and the tour includes a March 25, 2020 stop at Bowery Ballroom. Check out the tour dates below.

2020 Tour Dates
2/12: Tokyo, JP @ Billboard Live
2/14: Osaka, JP @ Billboard Live
3/21: Denver, CO @ Dazzle Jazz
3/22: Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room
3/25: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
3/27: Washington, DC @ The Hamilton Live
5/7: Evanston, IL @ SPACE
5/8-9: Minneapolis, MN @ Dakota