Tag: Chicago

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In 2004, Chicago-based producer David Vandenberg brought the Leeds-based funk act The New Mastersounds to the States as an opener for Greyboy All-Stars for what would be the acclaimed British act’s first Stateside tour. And as the story goes, Vandenberg took The New Mastersounds’ guitarist, bandleader and producer Eddie Roberts out to Rosa’s, a legendary blues club on Chicago’s West Side on Roberts’ first night in town to catch local blues legend Omar Coleman, who had been playing Rosa’s for decades. Interestingly, almost two decades later, Roberts would wind up producing Coleman’s forthcoming album Eddie Roberts Presents Omar Coleman: Strange Times.

Slated for release this summer through Roberts’ own Color Red Music, the album’s title is an ode to The New Mastersounds 2001 debut, Keb Darge Presents: The New Mastersounds — and in many ways Coleman’s album finds Roberts, an acclaimed musician, bandleader and producer taking on the role of curator and influencer, championing and supporting artists he believes should be heard and love, essentially paying Keb Darge’s support forward to a worthy act.

Earlier this year, I wrote about album title track “Strange Times,” a strutting and gritty synthesis of The Payback-era James Brown funk and Chicago blues featuring a looping bluesy guitar line, bursts of shimmering strings and a funky bass line that would Bootsy Collins‘ proud paired with Coleman’s powerhouse, soulful vocals. Lyrically, the song’s origins can be traced to a series of conversations Coleman had with Roberts during the album’s recording sessions about the bizarre, infuriating and tragic state of America during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the exchange between the two kept turning back to the fact that we were all living in very strange times. Coleman took that and ran with it, immediately scribbling out incisive and fiery lyrics that accurately describe life in our very moment with the song talking about the abject poverty, desperation and uncertainty that hardworking and decent folks everywhere face. As the old saying the rich get richer while the poor get sicker.

“Chicago,” Strange Times‘ latest single is a fiery song that hews to Chicago’s beloved blues tradition while brashly refusing to be pigeonholed. Much like its predecessor, it’s a bit of synthesis of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf-like blues and James Brown-era soul featuring an enormous horn line, a blazing harmonica solo and a strutting grove paired with Coleman’s soulful wailing. Starting with Coleman proudly announcing that he’s from Chicago’s West Side, the song talks about the things I love about that city: its a town inhabited by tough, hardworking people, who like countless people across the world are struggling to survive to keep their dignity intact, despite the despair, shittiness and inequity and inequality thrown in their path.

For the album, Roberts recruited an accomplished backing band that features himself, Ghost Light’Dan Africano (bass), Matador! Soul Sounds‘ Chris Spies (keys and organ), Dragondeer’s Carl Sorenson (drums), Lettuce‘s Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet), Michal Menert‘s Nick Gerlach (sax), Adrienne Short (viola) and Kari Clifton (violin) to help him with a sonic approach that would combine classic blues with funkier blues. And to capture the rawness and immediacy of the material, they recorded it straight to tape on Color Red Studios’ Tascam 388. “I hear Omar’s voice as a cross between Muddy Waters and Charles Bradley,” Roberts says. “I tried to reflect those qualities in music approach and songwriting as well as the way we recorded the album and built the instrumentation of the tracks.

Throwback: Black History Month: Howlin’ Wolf

Today is the first day of Black History Month. And throughout this month I’ll feature Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles that I think can guide you towards understanding the Black experience. Throughout the month I hope that you’ll appreciate these facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

I’m a huge blues fan. Howlin’ Wolf is one of my favorite Mississippi Delta/Chicago bluesmen. Songs like “Smokestack Lightnin,'” “Killing Floor” and “Spoonful” have long been blues rock standards — but his work heavily influenced Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and countless others.

New Video: The Psychedelic, 1980s Leaning Visuals for Promise Keeper’s “Porous Silk”

With the release of Side Decide” and other singles, London-based producer and electronic music artist Promise Keeper started to receive attention across the blogosphere for a sound that possesses elements of classic Chicago house, blue-eyed soul and 80s electro pop. And his latest single “Porous Silk” will further cement the British producer’s already burgeoning reputation for crafting slick, dance-floor friendly pop as androgynous yet sultry cooed vocals are paired with a production consisting of a sinuous bass line, Nile Rodgers-like guitar chords, propulsive and stuttering drum programming, twinkling keys and shimmering synths. Sonically, the new single evokes the sensation of silk running across naked skin, cool yet pliant –while being reminiscent of a slightly downtempo and house music-leaning version of Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait.”

The recently released music video employs the use of a grainy, VHS-styled psychedelia as the video follows its brooding protagonist observing ancient Greek-inspired art, drinking wine. Visually, it looks as though it could have appeared on a version of Ralph McDaniel’s Video Music Box back in 1987 or so.

New Video: The Sensual Sounds and Visuals of The Elle’s Latest Single “Halo”

“Halo” The Elle’s latest single pairs beatsinmybackpack’s soulful production consisting of shimmering and twinkling keys, boom bap drum programming with The Elle’s cooly self-assured and sultry vocals portraying a narrator, who’s urgently, stupidly, foolishly and proudly in love — of the sort, in which you see your object of desire and love as being the most perfect creature on earth. Sonically speaking, the song manages to channel golden era hip-hop, classic hip-hop soul and neo soul and J. Dilla simultaneously but with a gentle cosmic sheen — and while being incredibly sensual.

New Video: The Coquettish Sounds and Playful Visuals of Up-and-Coming Chicago-based Electro Pop Duo Chrissy and Hawley

As the story goes, Chrissy and Shoffner are both originally from Kansas — although they met in Chicago and began working together on an album that effortlessly meshes both of their unique styles — and as you’ll hear on their latest single “My Top Twenty,” off their soon-to-be released self-titled debut effort, Chrissy pairs a propulsive production of shimmering, brief bursts of twinkling keys and wobbling synths and skittering drum programming with Shoffner’s coquettish vocals singing lyrics about the connection between love and your favorite albums. And in some way, the duo’s latest single reminds me quite a bit of the propulsive and shimmering sounds of Soft Metals impressive Lenses album and classic house music — although “My Top Twenty” is far more coquettish and airier.

The recently released music video is an appropriately lighthearted and goofy video that features the duo’s Hawley Shoffner singing the song at a karaoke bar while the video within the video features Shoffner pensively wandering around parts of Chicago and goofing around in the karaoke-styled visuals you’d expect to see in a karaoke bar.

 

Promise Keeper is a London-based producer and electronic music artist, who has started to receive attention across the blogosphere for a sound that draws from classic Chicago house, blue-eyed soul and electro pop as you’ll hear on his sleek, dance floor ready, second single  “Side Decide,” which pairs breathily cooed vocals with a production consisting of twinkling and shimmering synths, staccato drum programming and swirling and ambient electronics.

 

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If you had been frequenting this site during the end of 2015 and the beginning of this year, you may recall coming across a couple of posts on Chicago-based R&B vocalist and singer/songwriter The Elle and her collaborations with Minnesota-based singer/songwriter and emcee Blaccout GarrisonHungry Soulful EP — in particular, “Strawberry Cheesecake Dessert.” which was produced by Dthr33 and featured Jackson, WY-based emcee Abstract, had Abstract and Garrison trading charmingly old-school-inspired lyrics about the ladies they loved over, while The Elle sang the song’s soulful and sensual hook over the soulful and jazzy sample that comprises A Tribe Called Quest‘s “Bonita Applebum.” Hungry Soulful‘s second single was the  P-Soul-produced “Wishing On A Star,” which paired a subtly chopped up old-timey, twinkling piano sample and boom-bap drum programming with Garrison rhyming about focusing on one’s dreams and overcoming life’s frustrations and obstacles. The Elle contributes the song’s introductory verses and the soulful and thoughtful hook.

 

Slated for release next month, Soul Art Music is the Chicago-based vocalist’s forthcoming full-length effort and the album’s latest single “Your Love” was produced by South African producer Keith Virgo. The track begins with an introductory sample of Eartha Kitt, setting up the song’s theme as the legendary actress and singer candidly shares her thoughts about love — and in her mind, real love is essentially a process of learning how to share yourself with yourself and others. The song pairs Virgo’s subtly cosmic and trippy production consisting of layers of twinkling and shimmering synths, tumbling percussion, boom bap drums,  electronic bleeps, bloops and beeps with The Elle’s sultry vocals about a love that has made her narrator feel as though she had found her truest self. Within the turn of a phrase The Elle reveals a narrator who is strong yet unafraid to be vulnerable and open, and absolutely appreciative of stumbling about this person at this juncture. Lucky and rare are those who experience such a love.

Jean Deaux is a Chicago, IL-based electronic music artist, whose sound draws from house, R&B and hip-hop. Her latest single “Father Time” is the first single released off Downtown Records‘ newest imprint Downtown Singles Club, a carefully curated selection of singles that are sent directly to subscribers via email, and the single pairs skittering drum programming, gently undulating synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and industrial clang and clatter  with Deaux’s sultry vocals and swaggering rhyming before ending with some soulful yet shimmering synths. The song and its production defy easy categorization — it clearly possesses elements of R&B, house, hip-hop, neo-soul, industrial house and industrial techno but it’s a slickly produced, trippy and sonically experimental work that manages to be approachable and dance-floor ready. And it does so while possesses a deeply existential bent, with its narrator exploring her complex and ambivalent relationship with time.

You can catch the up-and-coming electro pop artist when Deaux and friends play Elvis’ Guesthouse on March 26.