Tag: soul

Live Session: Bells Atlas on Audiotree Live

Now, over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Oakland, CA-based futuristic soul act Bells Atlas. And as you may recall, the act which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys)  have received attention for a forward-thinking, kaleidoscopic and lush sound that draws from indie rock, 90s R&B, Afro pop, Afro-futurism, jazz, electro pop and experimental pop. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the members of the Oakland-based act has opened for the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and others, as well as Bermuda Triangle, the side project of Alabama Shakes‘ Brittany Howard. Along with that, they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.

Released earlier this year, the acclaimed futuristic soul act’s latest EP SALT AND SOAP is inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you’re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is then to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Interestingly, during the creative process for their latest EP, the band stumbled upon a new songwriting process that incorporated the use of sampling grainy phone memo recordings of Geneva Harrison drumming as the bedrock of each song of the EP — and in turn, their full-length album The Mystic, which is slated for a March 2019 release. Focusing on spontaneity and sometimes even humor, the aim developed into writing music that was cinematic yet personal while highlighting each member’s individual skills and talent within the larger whole.

A few weeks ago the members of Bells Atlas were invited to Audiotree Live to do a live session centered around the material of the SALT AND SOAP EP including “Downpour,” a paradoxically slick yet lo-fi, lush and lysergic groove-driven track that recalled Drakkar Nowhere, Pavo Pavo and Erykah Badu; “Be Brave,” a sinuous and fluidic track centered around an incredibly dexterous and percolating bass line, driving percussion and rapidly morphing tone and time changes; the incredibly sultry “NCAT,” centered around shimmering and bubbling arpeggiated synths, stuttering drumming and a rolling bass, as well as two other tracks I haven’t written about — “Overshare” and “Find Where You Rise.” Throughout the live session, the material proves to be a perfect foil for Lawson-Ndu’s vocals, which manage to express a visceral vulnerability and human need, awe, strength and resiliency within a turn of a phrase.

Interestingly, during the session the band’s Lawson-Ndu speaks about her own deep, personal experience and love of sci-fi and fantasy and how they’ve influenced her to consider those genres through the experiences of being a woman of color.

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Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past 12-18 months of its eight-plus year history, you’ve come across a handful of posts about the Paris-born, London-based singer/songwriter Sophie Baudry, whose solo recording project Million Miles is the culmination of a life-long love affair with soul music.

After completing her studies at  Berklee College and a stint as a recording engineer and studio musician in New York, Baudry returned home to London, where she felt an irresistible pull to write and record her own original music, largely inspired by Ray Charles and Bill Withers. On a whim, Baudry took a trip to Nashville, where she spent her first few days wandering, exploring and reaching out to strangers, as though she were saying “I ’m new here. I’m a songwriter and I’m looking for like-minded people to collaborate with.” While in Nashville, the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter wound up having chance meetings with two local songwriters and producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson and within about an hour or so of their meeting, they began writing the material that eventually became Baudry’s Million Miles’ debut EP Berry Hill, which was recorded over the course of a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s home studio in the Berry Hill neighborhood of Nashville. And from EP singles “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart” and “Love Like Yours,” Baudry quickly received attention across the blogosphere, as well as this site, for an easy-going yet deliberately crafted, Sunday afternoon, Soul Train-like soul that nodded equally at the aforementioned Bill Withers and Erykah Badu and Jill Scott.

Baudry’s much-anticipated sophomore EP Good Luck, Honey is slated for a November release, and from the soulful EP single “Honey,” the track revealed an artist, who has become increasingly self-assured in her songwriting and approach, but maintaining a lived in, emotional honesty that’s rare for most contemporary pop. Good Luck, Honey‘s later single ” Just Dumb Luck” will further cement Baudry’s growing reputation for crafting effortless yet honest soul; but interestingly, the track finds the French-born, British-based singer/songwriter’s sound leaning in a much more rootsy take on soul that recalls Sandra Rhodes’ Where’s Your Love Been and Bonnie Raitt. As Baudry explains in press notes, “‘Just Dumb Luck”‘ is about how sometimes in life things just happen. They do. It’s not always all calculated through some algorithm, or perhaps there’s a universe’s algorithm that orchestrates it all… But I believe in luck and also creating your own luck. And by creating your own luck I mean going out there, being open minded, listening to people, to their story, and building your own as you go along. It’s a song about appreciating the moment, acknowledging the luck you’ve been having so far and just going with it and see where it takes you…”

Baudry will be playing an intimate set at Rockwood Music Hall on November 1, 2018. Fans should expect to hear material from the new EP, as well as the countless singles I’ve written about on this site.

New Audio: Dunham Records Release a Stomping and Swooning Love Song off the Soon-to-be Released Posthumous Charles Bradley Album

Throughout a significant portion of this site’s 8-plus year history, I’ve written a bit about JOVM mainstay, Charles Bradley, the late, Brooklyn-based soul singer. Now, as you may recall, Bradley led a remarkable life, overcoming unimaginable adversity to achieve success and international acclaim late his life  — thanks in part to the release of documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America, three full-length albums 2011’s No Time For Dreaming, 2013’s Victim of Love and 2016’s Changes, and a powerful, heartfelt live show.  Interestingly during his relatively short recording career, Bradley wound up playing a larger-than-life role in pop culture: Bradley was a prominent figure in the Daptone Records live documentary, Living on Soul filmed during the Daptone Records Soul Revue shows back in 2014 at the legendary Apollo Theater; performed on Netflix’s Luke Cage; was the signing voice of Minstrel Krampus on American Dad; and he had tracks featured on a number of films and TV shows, including the title tracks for Netflix’s Big Mouth, HBO’s Barry and more.

And although those successes came late in his life, none of them should be surprising because what drew so many fans, critics and others towards him was the fact that for him, Bradley and felt and understood that the great pain and tribulations of his life were a cry for  universal love, brotherhood and empathy. He preached it passionately and constantly — and as many would say, it seemed that he believed that if he loved harder, more passionately, and just more — if we all just loved each other a bit more — we could make the world a much better place. Certainly, in a seemingly dark and cynical world in which humanity is inching towards its annihilation, we could use more Charles Bradleys, more Sharon Joneses, too.

November 5, 2018 would have been Charles Bradley’s 70th birthday and in celebration of the man, his life and his music, Dunham Records will posthumously release his fourth and final album Black Velvet on November 9, 2018.  Featuring 10 tracks lovingly curated by his friends, bandmates and family, the album chronologically spans Bradley’s recording career — but instead of a greatest hits-like anthology or a rehashing of say, several different versions of known and beloved songs, the album focuses on deeper, mostly unreleased cuts recorded during the sessions from each of Bradley’s three albums. The album will include highly sought-after and beloved covers including his takes on Nirvana‘s “Stay Away,” Neil Young‘s “Heart of Gold,” Rodriguez‘s “I’ll Slip Away,” and an alternate full-band electric version of “Victim of Love,” among others.

Of course, in many ways, the album documents the friendship and collaboration shared between Bradley and longtime collaborator, producer and co-writer Tommy Brenneck. As Brenneck explains, Black Velvet‘s first single “I Feel A Change” was recorded during the Victim of Love sessions. “Horns and organ were recorded later adding a haunting beauty to the otherwise a cappella intro. The lyrics are 100% Charles. Personal yet abstract. Directly from the heart. He truly loved the expression ‘going through changes’ and this was a few years before we would record our rendition of Sabbath‘s ‘Changes‘ with the Budos. Sadly Charles never got to hear the finished version of this beautiful song.” “I Feel a Change” was classic Charles Bradley — the Screaming Eagle of Soul’s imitable vocals passionately expressing desire, frustration and heartache within a turn of a phrase, pleading in a deeply confessional fashion to you. Of course, Bradley’s vocals are paired with a slow-burning, sensual arrangement that feels eerily spectral yet urgent and necessary.

Interestingly, while searching for material to include on Black Velvet, Brenneck stumbled upon the album’s latest single, having forgotten that it had even existed — although the track was recorded around 2007 during the recording sessions for Bradley’s No Time for Dreaming. Featuring members of the Menahan Street Band, the single is a revealing look into the Bradley’s early sound while being a stomping, two-stepping love song centered around sweet, old-school lyrics and Bradley’s heartfelt vocals.  As Brenneck notes, “For some reason I always thought we hadn’t finished the vocal track but, to my surprise, not only was it finished, it was a powerful performance by Charles and the band is on fire to boot… Why it didn’t make No Time For Dreaming? I have no idea.” With every single off the new album, I’m reminded of the fact that although the man may no longer be with us, that his spirit is still vital and with us when he need it the most. Long live Charles Edward Bradley, y’all! Long live Charles Edward Bradley!

New Video: The Putbacks Team Up with Bilal on a Trippy and Cinematic Bit of Psych Soul

Comprised of founding members Rory McDougall (drums), Tom Martin (guitar) and Mick Meager (bass), Simon Mavin (Hammond organ) with Justin Marshall, funk and soul, instrumental act The Putbacks feature some of Melbourne, Australia’s most accomplished musicians — as members of the band have played with Hiatus Kaiyote, The Bombay Royale, D.D. Dumbo, Swooping Duck, The Meltdown and The Black Arm Band; in fact, the band, which formed back in the early 00s is the unofficial house band of renowned Australian label HopeStreet Recordings, and they reportedly take their cues from the house bands of 60s and 70s soul studios — in particular, The MGs, The Meters and The Wrecking Crew, as well as film composers of David Axelrod and Adrian Younge.

The release of a number of 7 inches through their now-long-time label home began receiving attention across Australia; but it was their 2014 collaboration with Australian Aboriginal singer/songwriter Emma Donavan, Dawn which resulted in a growing national and international profile. And since then the members of The Putbacks had been extremely busy with a number of individual projects while finding time to write and record, their forthcoming Paul Bender-produced self-titled debut, which is slated for a November 9, 2018 release. Interestingly, the album finds the band collaborating with a number of renowned artists including singer/songwriter and neo-soul pioneer Bilal and violins and arranger Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. 

The album’s first single “The Ways” is an incredibly cinematic and film noir-ish bit of psych soul centered around twinkling and arpeggiated keys, scorching guitar lines, played through delay and effect pedal paired with Bilal’s dreamy yet husky vocals singing stream-of-consciousness vocals — all within an expansive song structure. The entire song sounds as though it draws from The Roots and Hot Buttered Soul-era Isaac Hayes simultaneously but with an improvised, free-flowing air. 

New Audio: The Sha La Das Release a Psych Pop-like Bit of Blue-Eyed Soul

I’ve written a bit about the newest act in the Daptone Records Universe over the course of the summer, The Sha La Das, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of the the Staten Island, NY-based Schalda Brothers,  Will (a.k.a. Swivs), who played keys for Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires; Paul, the creative mastermind and guitarist with his Paul and The Tall Trees, as well as a member of Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaries; Carmine; and their father Bill can trace the origins of their passion for music to growing up in a rather musical home — as a teenager, Bill was a member of Brooklyn-based doo wop act The Montereys in the early 60s, an act that played neighborhood clubs and bars, eventually playing at the 1964 World’s Fair before putting his musical career on hold to raise his family; however, Bill made sure that he taught his sons what he knew. As the eldest son Will recalls in press notes, “He would bring us out on the stoop on Staten Island, and we would teach us parts of say, the Sesame Street theme song. We were his backing group early on and that was a lot of fun for us growing up.”

Officially though, the origins of The Sha La Das can be traced to when The Schalda Brothers had come into the studio to record background vocals on Charles Bradley’s sophomore album Victim of Love. And as the story goes, as soon as Daptone Records/Dunham Records producer and guitarist Thomas Brenneck first heard The Schalda Brothers’ close harmonizing, The Everly Brothers and The Beach Boys immediately came to his mind — and from that point, Brenneck knew that he had to work with them as a separate project. The Sha La Das’ Thomas Brenneck-produced full-length debut Love In The Wind is slated for a release next Friday through Dunham Records, an imprint of Daptone Records, and the album which was co-written by Brenneck and Bill Schalda finds the group taking their sound and approach outside of doo wop and “to take the whole vocabulary of doo wop harmony and reapply it to soul, so you get so you get super soulful harmonies along the lines of The Manhattans and The Moments,” as Brenneck explains in press notes. Unsurprisingly, the album was a family affair — both biological and within the Daptone Records Universe, as the Schaldas are backed by a modern soul All-Star backing band featuring Brenneck, Homer Steinweiss, Dave Guy, Leon Michels, Nick Movshon and Victor Axelrod.

The album’s first single was the achingly tender and yearning ballad “Open My Eyes” centered around an atmospheric and unhurried arrangement consisting of a bluesy guitar line, plinking keys, dramatic and gently padded drums, soaring strings and the Schaldas’ soulful harmonizing. The album’s second single “Just For a Minute” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor but centered around a jangling and old school soul-like arrangement that recalls The Everly Brothers and others, complete The Schaldas tender vocalizing. The album’s third and latest single “Okay My Love,” continues to highlight The Schaldas effortless, blue-eyed soul harmonizing but within a trippy and somewhat moody arrangement that recalls Scott Walker’s “It’s Raining Today” as much as it does old school soul, but while possessing a swooning urgency. 

Comprised of founding member, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mathew Ajarapu, Khayle Hagood (bass), Khori Wilson (drums) and Cam Cunningham (guitar), the Chicago, IL-based soul outfit The Devonns (pronounced De-Vaughns) can trace their origins to when  Ajarapu dropped out of med school, and found himself unemployed and aimlessly drifting through his life. As the story goes, at the time, Ajarapu was listening to music constantly and found himself drawn to the classic soul sounds of the late 1960s-early 1970s, best known for steady grooves, carefully crafted songwriting, impeccable production and gorgeous arrangements.

While sonically and aesthetically drawing influence from the work of The Impressions, Leroy Hutson, The Bar-Kays, Carole King, Raphael Saddiq and Jamie Lidell, the band’s primary focus was on exploring the elements of songwriting, arrangement and production made popular from about 1965-1973 or so. The act’s debut single “Come Back” was released earlier this year through Italian soul label Record Kicks Records — the label home of Hannah WIlliams and the Affirmations, Marta Ren and the Groovelets an others, and was reportedly written in 10 minutes on a $300 Danelectro singlecut guitar. Recorded at Chicago’s Kingsize Sound Labs, the track features arrangements by Paul Von Martens, who has worked with Mavis Staples, Paul McCartney, and Elton John, and the guitar work and percussion of multi-instrumentalist Ken Stringfellow, who has worked with R.E.M. “Come Back” received attention across soul music circles, and building upon a growing profile, the Chicago-based soul act’s latest single “Think I’m Falling in Love,” is breezy and up beat track centered around a gorgeous string arrangement, a bluesy guitar line and a classic horn line, and while the song and its arrangement is heavily y indebted to Smokey Robinson, The Impressions and Leroy Hutson, the song also will remind some listeners of Mayer Hawthrone. According to the band’s Mathew Ajjarapu, “The song actually came to me pretty quickly; I was driving to work one day and suddenly the entire guitar lead riff popped into my head, along with the bass line and chords. I instantly knew it was kind of special.”

Currently, the band is in the studio with Paul Von Martens working on their highly anticipated full-length album, which will also be released through Record Kicks next winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live Footage: Donna Missal Performs the Sultry “Keep Lying” on Vevo DSCVR

Donna Missal is a New Jersey-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, who initially won the attention of the blogosphere with her sultry and bluesy debut single “Keep Lying” which pairs Missal’s soulful, belting vocals with 12 blues power chords, a propulsive section and enormous, anthemic hooks — and while sonically, the single finds Missal and her backing band effortlessly meshing the blues, old school soul, hip hop, and rock in a way that recalls Amy Winehouse, Hannah Williams and the Affirmations, Alicia Keys and others, the song is an urgent and passionate plea to a lover, who may be unfaithful, deceitful or no damn good. Unsurprisingly, once the original demo version of “Keep Lying” was played on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 Radio show, the single has climbed up the charts — 18 Alternative radio stations have added the track to their playlists, with the song shooting to the top of Spotify Viral and Hype Machine charts; in fact, “Keep Lying” along with several other tracks have amassed over 11 million streams across streaming services.

Missal’s much-anticipated Nate Mercereau-produced full-length debut This Time was released the other day, and the album will further cement the New Jersey-born Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter’s growing reputation for soulful and unabashed honest pop, centered on living entirely on one’s own terms. I’ve spent most of my life being hyper-focused on time, which I think is something that a lot of women obsess over,” Missal says in press notes. “We’re in such a rush to make things happen, when really we should take the time to figure out what we actually want out of life. And even though it’s so fucking hard to have that kind of patience, I think it’s so important to believe in yourself enough to let things develop in a way that feels right to you.” Missal continues, “This isn’t a record about love and loss and relationships. It’s about taking chances for yourself, figuring out who you are and really standing behind that. I made a point of putting myself out there as a real person navigating this life at this moment in time, because I want to do whatever I can as an artist to help people feel more confident in navigating their own lives. I’d love for the listener to receive the message that you can take your time to learn and love yourself. That’s been the most important discovery that I want to share with this album.”

Interestingly, Missal and her backing band recorded live to tape with some of the material being sampled to imbue it with a fresh yet timeless energy — and to set her apart from a busy and competitive slate of contemporary pop singers.  “I really wanted this album to reference my history of playing in bands,” Missal   explains in press notes. “It’s all these very pure, talented musicians playing together in a room, but then we took that and sampled it and altered in a way that creates something totally new.” Of course, Missal is touring to support her new album and it includes a sold out show tonight at Rough Trade. (You can check out the tour dates below.)

Vevo DSCVR is Vevo’s emerging artist platform that curates the best up-and-coming artists — acts that the site believes will have a significant impact on the future — to perform their best material. Vevo has a lengthy history of promoting emerging artists and helping them break through to new and wider audiences; in fact, past alumni of the Vevo DSCVR series has included Jack Garratt, James Bay, Years & Years, Wolf Alice, Sam Smith, Jorja Smith, Maggie Rogers, Alessia Cara and Ella Eyre among others. Now, as you may recall Vevo DSCVR has invited up-and-coming pop artists Billie Eilish and Bülow to perform material off their newest efforts, and they recently invited Missal to perform her impressive standout track “Keep Lying” and from the footage, Missal performs with a rock ‘n’ roll-like energy, bouncing around like a young Anthony Kedis.

New Video: Dunham Records Releases Slow-Burning and Heartfelt Single from Posthumously Released Final Charles Bradley Album

Throughout a significant portion of this site’s 8 year history, I’ve written quite a bit about JOVM mainstay, Charles Bradley, the late, Brooklyn-based soul singer, who led a remarkable life, overcoming difficult and at times unimaginable adversity to achieve success and international acclaim late in his life — thanks in part to the release of documentary Charles Bradley: Soul of America, three full-length albums 2011’s No Time For Dreaming, 2013’s Victim of Love and 2016’s Changes, and a powerful, heartfelt live show.  Interestingly throughout his short recording career, Bradley wound up playing a larger than life role in pop culture: Bradley was a prominent figure in the Daptone Records live documentary, Living on Soul filmed during the Daptone Records Soul Revue shows back in 2014 at the legendary Apollo Theater; performed on Netflix’s Luke Cage; was the signing voice of Minstrel Krampus on American Dad; and he had tracks featured on a number of films and TV shows, including the title tracks for Netflix’s Big Mouth, HBO’s Barry and more.

And honestly, although those successes came late in his life, none of them should be surprising because what drew so many fans, critics and others towards him was the fact that understood that the great pain and tribulations of his life were a cry for  universal love, brotherhood and empathy. He preached it passionately and constantly — and as many would say, it seemed that he believed that if he loved harder, more passionately, and just more — if we all just loved each other a bit more — we could make the world a much better place. Certainly, in a seemingly dark and cynical world in which humanity is inching towards its annihilation, we could use more Charles Bradleys, more Sharon Joneses, too.

November 5, 2018 would have been Charles Bradley’s 70th birthday and in celebration of the man, his life and his music, Dunham Records will posthumously release his fourth and final album Black Velvet on November 9, 2018.  Featuring 10 tracks lovingly curated by his friends, bandmates and family, the album chronologically spans Bradley’s recording career — but instead of a greatest hits-like anthology or a rehashing of say, several different versions of known and beloved songs, the album focuses on deeper, mostly unreleased cuts recorded during the sessions from each of Bradley’s three albums. The album will include highly sought-after and beloved covers including his takes on Nirvana’s “Stay Away,” Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” Rodriguez’s “I’ll Slip Away,” and an alternate full-band electric version of “Victim of Love,” among others.

Of course, in many ways, the album documents the friendship and collaboration shared between Bradley and longtime collaborator, producer and co-writer Tommy Brenneck. As Brenneck explains, Black Velvet’s first single “I Feel A Change” was recorded during the Victim of Love sessions. “Horns and organ were recorded later adding a haunting beauty to the otherwise a cappella intro. The lyrics are 100% Charles. Personal yet abstract. Directly from the heart. He truly loved the expression ‘going through changes’ and this was a few years before we would record our rendition of Sabbath’s ‘Changes’ with the Budos. Sadly Charles never got to hear the finished version of this beautiful song.”

“I Feel a Change” is classic Charles Bradley — the Screaming Eagle of Soul’s imitable vocals passionately expressing desire, frustration and heartache within a turn of a phrase, pleading in a deeply confessional fashion to you. Of course, Bradley’s vocals are paired with a slow-burning, sensual arrangement that feels eerily spectral yet urgent and necessary. The man may not be with us but his spirit is forcefully vital and with us, just when we need it the most. Long live Charles Edward Bradley, y’all! Long live Charles Edward Bradley!

Directed by Jeff Broadway and Cory Bailey, the directorial and production team behind Living on Soul, the recently released video for “I Feel A Change” is centered around intimate behind the scenes footage of Bradley in speechless awe in an old European church, sewing his elaborate costumes, recording in the studio and performing on stage. The video captures the great soul singer in the fullness of his life and talent and is a powerful reminder of someone who radiated love and goodness to any and all comers.