Kelly Finnigan (vocals, keys) is best known for being the frontman of the acclaimed West Coast-based soul outfit Monophonics. And since their formation, the act which also features Austin Bohlman (drums), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), and Max Ramey (bass) has developed and honed a sound and approach that continues the traditions of early Motown Records, Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records.
Earlier this year, Monophonics released their third album It’s Only Us and the album further cements their reputation for being an act that’s particularly keen on crafting and playing a heavier and digger take on classic soul — but while revealing a band gently refining their sound to incorporate warmer textures. Thematically, It’s Only Us may arguably be the hardest hitting of their catalog as it touches upon desperately needed calls for unity, understanding, resilience and acceptance in our fractious and divisive world.
Capping out what has been a busy year, Finnigan’s sophomore album Joyful Sound sees its official release today through Colemine Records digitally. (Holly Berry Red will be releasing the vinyl on December 11, 2020). Produced by Finnigan, Joyful Sound is the third album he’s helmed in the past two years — his solo debut, last year’s The Tales People Tell and Monophonics’ It’s Only Us. While continuing Finnigan’s growing reputation for specializing in the classic R&B and soul production and sound, the new album is imbed with a joyful, holiday spirit.
Featuring members of Durand Jones & The Indications, The Dap-Kings, Ghost Funk Orchestra, Monophonics, Thee Sinseers, Orgōne, Ikebe Shakedown, Jason Joshua & The Beholders, The True Loves, Jungle Fire, Delvon Lamar Organ Trio, The Jive Turkeys, The Ironsides, and The Harlem Gospel Travelers, as well as Ben Pirani, Neal Francis and Rudy De Anda among others, Joyful Sound is inspired by Atlantic Records‘ Soul Christmas, Phil Spector‘s A Christmas Gift For You and Rotary Connection‘s Peace.
“I want people to feel joy and hope. I want the music to remind them what they are thankful for,” Finnigan says in press notes about Joyful Sound. “The songs and mood of the music should spark a feeling that it is a special time of year but also that it can also be a very difficult time for others. Holidays are about bringing people together to celebrate and I want this record to be a soundtrack for those celebrating but also a reminder that a lot of people are still struggling regardless if it’s Christmas or not. Most Importantly, I want them to hear the love and passion that went into the music. I’m lucky to have some incredible musicians and artists on the record and I hope they can hear the joy that everyone put into their performance. There’s a feeling of magic and nostalgia that lives in those classic Christmas songs and I believe I was able to capture some of that on this record. Christmas has become a grand event in most places in the world but we all have to remember that the reason this holiday is special for most is because it brings people together and reminds us that our friends and family are what’s most important.”
Last month, I wrote about the lush Motown Records-like “No Time To Be Sad,” a classic make-up song that finds the song’s narrator pleading to his lover that they should stop their quarreling and make it a romantic Christmas — because that’s not the season to be bitter or breakup. “Santa’s Watching You,” Joyful Sound’s latest single finds Finnigan giving a strutting gospel burner by The Sacred Four “Somebody’s Watching You” a playful Christmas take in which Santa is now looking at all of us in judgement of our behavior, actions, words and deeds. So you better get your act straight and fly right — or Santa will make sure you get coal and fiery, eternal damnation.