Tag: soul

New Video: Amsterdam’s The Tibbs Release Film Noir-like Visuals for New Single “Lies”

Comprised of Elsa Bekman (vocals), Henk Kemkes (guitar), Michael Willemsen (bass), Bas de Vries (drums), Paul Jonker (Hammond), Berd Ruttenberg (baritone sax), Coen de Vries (tenor sax) and Siebe Posthuma de Boer (trumpet), the Amsterdam, The Netherlands-based soul act The Tibbs formed in 2012 and within their first couple of years together, they developed a reputation nationally as one of their country’s finest soul acts; in fact, they self-released an attention grabbing demo, which was followed by a 45rpm vinyl release through German funk label Tramp Records, and their full-length debut Takin’ Over, which was released by Italian soul and funk label, Record Kicks Records, the label home of Hannah Williams and the Affirmations and Marta Ren and the Groovelets among others. Adding to a growing profile, the band has played the North Sea Jazz Club and have a live performance on Dutch national Radio 6 (since renamed NPO Soul and Jazz). 

“Lies,” the Dutch soul act’s latest single was officially released today as a 45rpm vinyl and digital download through Record Kicks, and the single will further cement Record Kicks Records as purveyors of the some of the Europe’s — if not the world’s — finest soul acts. And naturally, the single prominently features Bekman’s incredibly soulful, pop star belter vocals paired with a backing band, much like the aforementioned Affirmations could give the Daptone crew a run for their money. Thematically and lyrically, the song is  a classic soul-inspired torch burner that focuses on a narrator, who is desperate to break out of an oppressive and deeply frustrating routine, and recognizing that in order to do so, requires an almost superhuman resolve, strength and sense of independence; and that worse yet, that while necessary for her, it’ll be painfully lonely. 

Look for the Dutch act’s highly-anticipated sophomore effort, which will include “Lies” sometime in 2018 — but in the meantime, the recently released film noir-like video, directed by the band’s Ekman, features her as a bored and dissatisfied wife, who recognizes that if she doesn’t break out of a dreadful, soul sucking routine, she’ll die doing the same exact thing as she’s always done; and from the moment the performance sequences begin Ekman goes from meek and compliant to a stomping, force of nature that demands your attention.  

Live Footage: The Legendary Mavis Staples Performs “Build A Bridge” on “Colbert”

Now, more than enough ink has been spilled throughout Mavis Staples‘ eight decades in music, both as a member of the legendary The Staple Singers and as a solo artist, so I won’t delve into her biography or what other journalists have written about her because I think that for the sake of this post, it’s largely unnecessary; however, whether as a member of The Staple Singers or as a solo artist, Ms. Staples has released some of the most important, influential and beloved songs of the 60s and 70s — and in my book, the woman is a revered, national treasure. Of course, unsurprisingly, Staples has seen quite a bit of American history — including the bitter and shameful prejudice, racism, ugliness, injustice and violence of the Jim Crow-era South, the Civil Rights era, the hypocrisy and wishy washiness of White moderates and liberals, the election of Barack Obama — and yet . . . as the old adage says — the more things change, the more things remain the same. And while the same hate has always remained, rooted around race, gender, class, ethnicity and nationally, for the first time in a couple of  generations, the discussion of whether or not this country has lived up to is ideals have forced itself back into the national consciousness. 

Staples’ soon-to-be released album If All I Was Was Black continues her ongoing and critically applauded collaboration with singer/songwriter and producer Jeff Tweedy — and interestingly, the album marks the first time that Tweedy has composed an entire album worth of music for Staples. And as the story goes, when Tweedy and Staples convened to write the album’s material, the duo found themselves recognizing that this was a critical historical moment, in which they wanted and needed to say something about the current state of things here in the US and about the various fissures along race, politics, gender, gender identity and so on.  “We’re not loving one another the way we should,” the legendary vocalist says in press notes. “Some people are saying they want to make the world great again, but we never lost our greatness. We just strayed into division.” Tweedy adds, “I’ve always thought of art as a political statement in and of itself — that it was enough to be on the side of creation and not destruction. But there is something that feels complicit at this moment in time about not facing what is happening in this country head on.”

Naturally, some of the album’s material reportedly expresses anger and frustration — after all, how it could it not? In some way, Election Day last year felt like major gains made by dear friends in the Black, Latino, LGBQT and Muslim communities were wiped away. And yet, the material while still rooted around Staples’ legendary optimism, the material is balanced with a grounded realism that essentially says “well shit, there’s quite a bit of hard work, love and empathy that’s needed to make things right. Interestingly, when I heard album title track  “If All I Was Was Black,” I was immediately reminded of Syl Johnson‘s aching and bitter lament “Is It Because I’m Black.” in the sense that Staples’ latest single is an earnest and hopeful plea to the listener, imploring them to look into the heart and souls of every individual they come across, and to see them for their unique abilities; to render one’s skin color as relatively unimportant as the color of one’s eyes.

The album’s latest single “Build A Bridge” focuses on the growing sense of alienation, loneliness and misunderstanding of modern life — with Ms. Staples boldly suggesting that many of the world’s problems could be solved if people could allow themselves to be vulnerable and empathetic to the plight of others, so that they can see both the glorious differences in others and the universality of all.  For Ms. Staples sake, I hope we can all try before it’s too late. 

Recently Ms. Staples, Tweedy, their backing band and members of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert band performed the song on Late Show with Stephen Colbert. 

New Video: Daptone Records Posthumously Release a Mediative Gospel Song off Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings’ Last Album “Soul of a Woman”

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of its seven year history, you’ve come across a number of posts featuring Daptone Records recording artists and JOVM mainstays Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Charles Bradley, and as you may recall, Sharon Jones died late last year after a three year battle with pancreatic cancer and Charles Bradley died earlier this year after a two-year battle with stomach cancer. 

As it turns out, Jones and her Dap Kings spent the better part of her last few months writing and recording what is now known as the band’s final, full-length studio album, Soul of a Woman, which is slated to be posthumously released on November 17, 2017 through Daptone Records. Recorded on eight-track tape at Daptone Records’ Bushwick, Brooklyn-based House of Soul Studios, the album finds the band and their beloved leader pushing the limits of their songwriting and sound to create what some have said may arguably be some for he band’s rawest and most sophisticated material they’ve ever written.  

Earlier this month, I wrote about Soul of a Woman’s first single “Matter of Time,” a lush and moody meditation and the nature of time that struck me as being inspired by Ecclesiastes and The Byrds’ legendary coverof Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” as Jones and company seem to suggest that with everything there’s a season and a purpose; that the pursuit of peace, justice, freedom and equality are frequently part of a necessary, lifelong struggle; and that one day, that struggle will result in a peace, brotherhood, sisterhood and understanding for all. But perhaps, because we now know that Jones died  as the band was finishing the material on the album, the song manages to also possess the profound and sad wisdom of the dying — that ultimately, all things are fleeting and impermanent. 

The album’s second and latest single “Call on God” was originally written in the late 1970s for E.L. Fields’ Gospel Wonders, a choir she sang with throughout most of her life at the Universal Church of God, here in New York; but interestingly enough, Jones recorded with her Dap Kings during the 100 Days, 100 Nights sessions — and much like “Answer Me,” which made the album, Jones accompanied herself on piano with the band playing behind her, frequently providing specific instructions on how she wanted everything to sound. Though she always provided input on every song, Jones taking full charge was uncommon; however, the band found the experience to be so inspiring that they made a pact with Jones to record a gospel album with her taking the helm. As it turns out “Call on God” was set aside for that eventual gospel album but sadly, the song and the album was never completed. 

On December 18, 2016, E.L. Fields’ window, Pastor Margot Fields presided over Sharon Jones’ memorial service in Brooklyn, which was attended by several of the original members of the Gospel Wonders, who had come in from different parts of the country to celebrate Jones and her life. Together again for the first time in many years, they performed a moving tribute to Sharon as part of the service. As the story goes, Bosco Mann and the Dap Kings invited the Gospel Wonders, all who were longtime friends of Sharon’s back to the Daptone Records’ House of Soul Studios to finish “Call on God” with them. And at the studio, the members of the choir put on headphones and heard Sharon Jones’ voice signing the song she wrote for them almost 40 years earlier. Interestingly enough, Jones always wanted to add background vocals to the song and everyone knew that she would have been thrilled to know that some of her oldest and dearest friends had stopped by to sing with her one last time. 
As for the single, is a meditative and slow-burning song focusing on how faith can sustain you in the most desperate and uneasy times of your life — and although I’m an atheist, I can say that the God that Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley believed in, seems like the sort of God you’d want to worship and have in your corner. 

Featuring footage by Matt Rogers with additional camera work by Jessica Glass, the recently released video is a revealing and intimate look into the studio with Sharon Jones    playing piano and earnestly singing the song as the Dap Kings play with her. 

Live Footage: JOVM Mainstay Thundercat Performs Three Songs from Latest Album on NPR’s Tiny Desk

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past three or four years, you’ve likely come across a growing number of posts featuring the critically applauded bassist, vocalist and JOVM mainstay artist Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner. And as you may recall, the past two years or so have been incredibly busy for the renowned artists, as he’s collaborated with Kendrick Lamar  on Lamar’s Grammy Award-winning album, To Pimp A Butterfly and  Brainfeeder Records labelmate, Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, which he promptly followed up with one of my favorite releases of 2015, the mini-album The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam, an effort that further cemented his growing reputation as one of this decade’s most unique, genre-defying artists. 
Drunk, Bruner’s third, full-length effort was released earlier this year and the album was written as an epic journey into the bizarre, hilarious and sometimes dark mind of the singer/songwriter and bassist — and it features an All-Star list of collaborators including some of his go-to collaborators Kamasi Washington, Kendrick Lamar, Wiz Khalifa and Pharrell Williams, along with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. As you know, the album features a few, previously released fan favorites like  “Bus In These Streets” but it also features the bitterly hilarious, Anti-Valentine Day/fuck being friend zoned track, “Friend Zone,”  “Them Changes,” a song that focuses on a heartbroken and dazed narrator trying to piece his life back together after a romantic relationship has ended, and the shimmering and slow-burning “Lava Lamp,” among a number of others. 

Bruner with a backing band featuring Dennis Hamm (keys), Justin Brown (drums) and Miguel Atwood Ferguson (violin) was recently on NPR Tiny Desk to perform the aforementioned “Lava Lamp,” “Friend Zone” and “Them Changes” and from the footage, a Thundercat performance seems to an almost otherworldly experience of trippy funky — with a mischievous bent. Enjoy, catching what may be the most inventive and interesting bassist since the late, great Jaco Pastorius. 

Live Footage: Bilal and The Roots Perform Politically-Charged Single “It Ain’t Fair” on NPR Tiny Desk Concert

Currently comprised of founding members Tariq  “Black Thought” Trotter (vocals), Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (drums), along with Kamal Gray (keys), “Captain” Kirk Douglas (guitar), Damon Bryson, a.k.a. Tuba Gooding, Jr. (sousaphone, tuba), Mark Kelley (bass), James Poyster (keys), Stro Elliot (production, sampling), The Roots can trace their origins back to when its founding duo met while attending The Philadelphia High School of the Creative and Performing Arts. As the story goes, Trotter and Thompson would busk on street corners — with Thompson playing bucket drums and Trotter rhyming over Thompson’s rhythms, and by 1989, the played their first organized gig at their high school’s talent show under the name Radio Activity.

After a series of name changes including Black to the Future and The Square Roots, the duo eventually settled on The Roots, after discovering that a local folk group went by The Square Roots.  As they were building up a local profile, the duo expanded into a full-fledged band with the addition of Josh “The Rubberband” Adams, who later went on to form The Josh Abrams Quartet; MC Malik Abdul “Malik B.” Basit-Smart, Leonard Nelson “Hub” Hubbard (bass); Scott Storch (keys); MC Kenyatta “Kid Crumbs” Warren, who was in the band for the recording sessions for Organix, the band’s full-length debut; and MC Dice Raw, who made cameos on later albums. And although the band has gone through a number of lineup changes since the release of their debut, The Roots throughout the course of their critically applauded, 10 independently released albums, two EPs and two collaborative albums have developed a reputation for a sound that effortlessly meshes live, organic instrumentation featuring a jazz, funk and soul approach with hip-hop, essentially becoming one of the genre’s first true bands. Additionally, throughout their lengthy history together, the members of The Roots have developed a long-held reputation for collaborating with a diverse and expanding list of artists across a wide array of genres and styles, revealing an effortless ability to play anything at any time.

Of course, unless you’ve been living in a remote Tibetan monastery or in a cave, The Roots have been the house band for NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon from 2009-2014 and for presently being the house band The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, further expanding their profile into the national and international consciousness. And while being extraordinarily busy, the members of The Roots have been busy working on their 9th Wonder and Salaam Remi-produced 17th full-length album End Game, as well as contributing a politically charged track to the Detroit soundtrack, “It Ain’t Fair,” a collaboration with the renowned soul singer/songwriter Bilal.

Born Bilal Sayeed Oliver, Bilal is a Philadelphia, PA-born, New York-based soul singer/songwriter, best known by the mononym Bilal. Throughout his career, he’s received praise for his wide vocal range, work across multiple genres, his live performances and for collaborating with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Common, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Guru, Kimbra, J. Dilla, Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding, the aforementioned The Roots and others with his full-length debut 1st Born Second, which featured contributions from Soulquarians and production from Dr. Dre and J. Dilla being a commercial and critical success, peaking at number 31 on the Billboard 200 charts and receiving comparisons to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Sly & The Family Stone, Prince and Curtis Mayfield.  Although since then, the renowned singer/songwriter has developed an increasing reputation for his work becoming much more avant-garde and genre-defying.

Interestingly enough, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Damon Bryson, a.k.a. Tuba Gooding, Jr. of The Roots and Bilal, along with a horn section went down to NPR Tiny Desk in Washington, DC to perform “It Ain’t Fair,” a deeply reflective song that thematically and lyrically makes a thoughtful nod towards Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?, Syl Johnson’s Is It Because I’m Black? and others, as its creators unflinchingly and fearlessly call out a societal construct that denies a group of people the equality, dignity and decency that they too deserve. The song’s creators manage to empathetically offer a glimpse into the hearts and souls of those who love this country and would like to stand for the flag but simply can’t until the evils of inequality, racism and supremacy no longer exist — and when this great country actually lives up the ideals it claims it stands for. 

As I mentioned on Facebook, I was recently in Philadelphia for business related to my day job, and as I walked from my hotel in Center City through Old City, past The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, I recognized that I was walking on many of the streets that the Framers once walked on, as I’ve done several times before. I could picture ol’ Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Hancock, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and so on, in their powered wigs and wool coats during that hot summer of 1776. And the song managed to remind me of the bitter and uneasy sadness I had begun to feel, remembering that the Framers, who could write about man’s inalienable rights given to him by God, didn’t see those same rights applying to anyone, who remotely looked like I do (or anyone, who wasn’t a man, or a property owner, etc.); that their independence, their revolution was never mine. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the pledge allegiance to the flag just didn’t apply to me.

If I go back just five generations ago, my ancestors on both sides of my family were slaves. Five generations ago wasn’t that long ago in the overall scheme of things — we’re talking about the parents of my great-grandparents. And on the streets of the City of Independence, I thought of the unfathomable horror and suffering they went through to justify someone else’s desire to be superior — and naturally, the song reminds me quite a bit of a lifelong bitter pill that’s so very difficult to swallow. 

New Video: Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings to Posthumously Release Last Studio Album: First Single a Meditation on Time

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of its seven year history, you’ve likely come across a number of posts on Daptone Records recording artists Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Charles Bradley — both who I think were among some of the finest soul artists around. Now, as you may recall, Sharon Jones died after a three year battle with pancreatic cancer, and Charles Bradley died late last month after a two year battle with stomach cancer. Sadly and unsurprisingly, people die; it’s what people do, but there are some people, who seem larger than life and utterly incapable of dying — and somehow I always wanted to believe that Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley could never die. Shit, considering the abysmal state of the world, we could use a few more Sharon Joneses and Charles Bradleys to spread joy and love to countless others around globe.

As it turns out, Jones and her Dap Kings spent the better part of her last few months writing and recording what would be the band’s final studio album Soul of a Woman, which is slated to be posthumously released on November 17, 2017 through Daptone Records. Recorded on eight-track tape at Daptone Records’ Bushwick, Brooklyn-based House of Soul Studios, the album finds the band and their beloved leader pushing the limits of their songwriting and sound to create what some have said may arguably be some for he band’s rawest and most sophisticated material to date.

Soul of a Woman’s first single “Matter of Time” is a lush and moody mediation on the nature of time that strikes me as being equally inspired by Ecclesiastes and The Byrds’ legendary cover of Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” as it seems to suggest that with everything there’s a purpose and a season, and that there will be a time for peace and understanding, but along with that, it brings up the idea that life, the pursuit of peace, justice, true freedom and fairness are the result of necessary struggle.  Perhaps because we now know that Jones died within a few short months of finishing the recording sessions, the song manages to possess the profoundly sad wisdom of the dying — that ultimately, most things in our lives are fleeting and impermanent. And in an age of superficiality, of dotards, madmen and fools, of hate and division, of growing strife and unease, of seemingly impending nuclear annihilation, we could use love and wisdom.

The recently released video filmed and edited by  Jeff Broadway and Cory Bailey captures Sharon, her Dap-Kings and Charles Bradley both performing and behind the scenes while touring Europe, and naturally it captures Daptone Records beloved duo in the very fullness of their lives while revealing why those who knew them and loved their music feel their losses so very deeply.

New Video: Introducing the Easygoing Soul of French-born London-based Million Miles

Million Miles is the solo recording project of Paris-born, London-based singer/songwriter Sophie Baudry. Now, as the story goes, Baudry has had a life-long love affair with soul music and although she studied at Boston’s Berklee College and had a brief stint in New York working as recording engineer and studio musician, she returned to London and felt an irresistible pull to create the sort of soul music inspired by the likes of Ray Charles and Bill Withers. Baudry wound up in Nashville, TN on a whim. “I thought, ‘Why not?'” the French-born, British singer/songwriter recalls in press notes. 

She spent the her first few days and hours in Nashville wandering, exploring and reaching out to strangers as though saying “I’m new here and I’m a songwriter and i’m looking for people to collaborate with.” After a chance meeting Baudry wound up collaborating with songwriters/producers Robin Eaton and Paul Eberson. As Baudry recalls, she instantly hit it off with Eaton. “We met for coffee near his studio,” she recalls in press notes, “and an hour later, we started writing a song. It was quite immediate.” 

Baudry’s debut as Million Miles, Berry Hill EP was recored over a year during multiple sessions at Robin Eaton’s Berry Hill home studio, and the album reportedly focuses on the journeys taken and lessons learned in the up-and-coming singer/songwriter’s life — and from the EP’s latest single “Can’t Get Around A Broken Heart,” Baudry specializes in an easy-going and effortless singer/songwriter-based soul that brings to mind the aforementioned Bill Withers and Sandra Rhodes’ sadly under-appreciated and seemingly forgotten debut Where’s Your Love Been, as the song possesses a loose, Sunday afternoon country twang. But pay close attention, because much like the sources that influence her, Baudry’s vocals and songwriting has the rare ability to craft an infectious song that manages to be emotionally ambiguous — within a turn of a phrase, Baudry can express exquisite joy and heartache. 

Directed by Sequoia Ziff, the recently released video manages to capture Baudry in a series of moods — mainly pensive and coquettish and while evoking an idyllic summer afternoon with impossibly verdant greens, there’s a a mix of melancholy visuals — and it’s all done in a way to capture the song’s overall tone and mood. 

RIP Charles Bradley

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of its almost 8 year history, you’ve likely come across a number of posts featuring the Brooklyn-based soul singer and JOVM mainstay Charles Bradley, who won over the blogosphere and the hearts of fans across the world with the release of his three full-length albums 2011’s No Time For Dreaming, 2013’s Victim of Love and last year’s Changes, a powerfully heartfelt live show and a documentary about his life Charles Bradley: Soul of America. Sadly, the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” passed away after battling cancer on Saturday and his loss among fans, critics and industry professionals has been deeply felt, as he was a universally beloved figure, who constantly preached about love and inclusion — and as a critic and fan, I wanted to pay tribute to arguably one of the greatest soul singers of the past generation.  And considering the divisive and hateful nature of Donald Trump, the world needs a lot more Charles Bradleys, Sharon Joneses and others, who bring joy and love. Rest in power Charles! We all miss you so much.