Montreal-based collective The Foundation features some of the city’s best musicians, who also play in the Canadian city’s top R&B, hip-hop, funk, gospel, soul and jazz acts. The members of The Foundation gained collective experience from production and performing on a weekly, nationally aired TV show — and they used their momentum of their show to write and record their critically applauded debut EP One Step.
The Foundation also collaborates with some of the French Canadian city’s top and upcoming R&B, hip-hop, soul and funk acts, including Mel Pacifico and Fredy V — both, who are full-time members of the collective. The collective’s latest single “On The Rise,” marks the one-year anniversary of the release of their debut EP. But song is also a bold mission statement of stops, description the group’s current direction and mindset.
Featuring glistening synths, twinkling keys, thumping beats, hand-claps, Nile Rodgers-like funk guitar, wobbling bass synth, “On The Rise” is centered around a warm and roomy, New Jack Swing meets neo-soul with a hint of classic Chic-like production. Fredy V. contributes self-assured and thoughtful verses describing the sacrifices he had to take to get to where he is right now, including distancing from the people and habits that didn’t align with his goals. Pacifico contributes her soulful vocals to the song’s uplifting and infectious hook.Unsurprisingly, the new single is informed by and inspired by the collective’s experiences during the pandemic: Both individually and as a collective, The Foundation was forced to reflect on the direction of their careers in music — and their lives.
Thematically, the song touches upon self-empowerment, maturation, self-determination and accountability — that come about as someone matures and is actively attempting to make serious moves for themselves. The song — and the band — seem to say to the listener, “well, if you wanna fulfill your dreams, stop the bullshit and get to work. It ain’t easy but once you get there, it’ll be worth it.”
Over the past couple of years, I’ve spilled a copious amount of virtual ink covering the multi-Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada and San Fernando Valley-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Eric Burton, the acclaimed act can trace their origins back to 2017.
Burton, who grew up singing in church and in musical theater, started busking at the Santa Monica pier, where he brought in a few hundred dollars and day and honing his performance skills. He then traveled through the Western states before deciding to settle down in Austin, setting up a busking spot on 6th Street and Congress, a prime location in the city’s downtown neighborhood for maximum exposure.Meanwhile, Quesada was looking to collaborate with someone new. He reached out to friends in Los Angeles and London — but nothing seemed to fit. Serendipitously, a mutual friend recommended Burton to Quesada, telling the Grammy Award-winning songwriter, guitarist and producer that Burton was the best singer he had ever heard. The two musicians connected but Burton took a while to respond. “My friends were like ‘Dude, you’re a mad man, you need to hit that guy back!’” Burton recalls. When Burton did call Quesada, he sang to him over the phone. “I loved his energy, his vibe, and I knew it would be incredible on record,” Quesada says. “From the moment I heard him on the phone, I was all about it.”
Last year, the acclaimed JOVM mainstays released a deluxe version of their breakthrough debut which features new artwork, previously unpublished in-studio and live performance photos, a bonus 7 inch featuring three previously unreleased originals, live, in-studio versions of “Colors,” “October 33,” and “Confines;” a live version of “Know You Better,” recorded at C-Boys Heart & Soul, the Austin club, where the band first made a name for themselves;the band’s attention-grabbing covers of The Beatles‘ “Eleanor Rigby,” Death’s “Politicians in My Eyes,” Bobby “Blue” Bland‘s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” and Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car.”
Black Pumas are currently touring Europe. And after a couple of weeks off, the JOVM mainstays will embark on a West Coast tour to end the year. 2022 sees the band playing Nashville and a couple of North American festivals. They make stops in South America before returning to the states for Boston Calling next March. Next June and July, the band returns to Europe. As always those tour dates are below — and if they’re in a town near you, I’d suggest you get a ticket and catch Black Pumas.
Initially only available as part of Spotify Holiday Singles, the Austin-based JOVM mainstays’ cover of Lou Rawls‘ “Christmas Will Really Be Christmas” is finally available everywhere for the first time.
Buried on the B-side of Rawls’ 1967 Christmas-themed album Merry Christmas Ho! Ho! Ho!, “Christmas Will Really Be Christmas” was written by James Alexander, whose credits include Sam Cooke’s “Lost and Lookin’,” the R&B standard “I Like It Like That” recorded by everyone from Ray Charles to Van Morrison, Ben Raleigh’s “Laughing on the Outside,” “Faith Can Move Mountains,” “Tell Laura I Love Her” and “Wonderful, Wonderful,” a string of tunes for Lesley Gore, Rawls’ own “Dead End Street” and “Love Is a Hurtin’ Thing,” jazz standard “Midnight Mood” and incredibly the theme song for Scooby Doo, “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” The original is a slow-burning, minor-key funky bit of soul with profound and much-needed message: Christmas can’t be Christmas without peace, love and happiness for all.
The Black Pumas cover speeds the tempo up a bit and features a series of subtle changes — Burton keeps to his slightly higher register, the horns are replaced with the band’s incredible backing singles, the keys are a bit punchier and placed a bit more forward in the mix. The end result is a cover that the JOVM mainstays make their own while being faithful to the original’s spirit, feel and time period. It’s a difficult balance that the band has made seemingly effortless.
“We were really attracted to the message, the lyrics, the arrangement, the feeling,” Black Pumas’ frontman Eric Burton explains. “It’s a message that needs to be heard right now. I was a little nervous about singing in Lou Rawls’ low register, so I sang it an octave higher and it was nice to arrange vocals with the ladies [backup singers Lauren Cervantes and Angela Miller] as well to put our own spin on it.”
Producer/bandleader Adrian Quesada adds, “A Christmas song isn’t exactly something that we set out to do, but this Lou Rawls song is amazing. It was produced by one of my favorite arrangers and producers, David Axelrod. On that side of it I was drawn to it initially and I confirmed with Eric. I think we were both attracted to the message too, it touches on a message that I think is poignant to today’s times, that Christmas isn’t really Christmas until everyone has peace and happiness.”
11/16/21 – Lille, France @ Aérone SOLD OUT
11/17/21 – Nantes, Pays de la Loire @ Stéréolux SOLD OUT
11/18/21 – Paris, France @ L’Olympia
11/20/21 – Madrid, Spain @ La Riviera SOLD OUT
12/4/21 – Key West, FL @ Coast is Clear Music & Arts Fest
12/8/21 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater
12/9/21 – Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater
12/10/21 – Seattle, WA @ Paramount Theatre
12/12/21 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Depot
12/15/21 – San Francisco, CA @ The Masonic
12/16/21 – San Francisco, CA @ The Masonic
12/17/21 – Los Angeles, CA @ YouTube Theater
12/18/21 – Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues Las Vegas
2/4/22 – Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium SOLD OUT
2/5/22 – Nashville, TN @ Ryman Auditorium
2/26/22 – 2/27/22 – Tempe, AZ @ Innings Festival
3/2/22 – 3/5/22 – Cancún, Mexico @ My Morning Jacket’s One Big Holiday
3/19/22 – 3/20/22 – Mexico City, CDMX @ Vive Latino
3/25/22 – 3/27/22 – São Paulo, SP @ Lollapalooza Brasil
Moscow-based instrumental funk outfit The Diasonics — Anton Moskvin (drums), Maxim Brusov (bass guitar), Anton Katyrin (percussions), Daniil Lutsenko (guitar) and Kamil Gzizov (keys) — formed back in 2019 and in a relatively short period of time, the Russian quintet quickly amassed a cult following, honing what they’ve dubbed “hussar funk,” a blend of hip-hop rhythms, 60s and 70s psychedelia, Eastern European flavor within cinematic arrangements.
“Gurami,” Origins of Forms‘ first single is a slow-burning and soulful strut, centered around shimmering wah wah pedaled guitar that sounds inspired by Turkish psychedelia, boom bap breakbeats, soaring keys, and at trippy groove rooted in a sinuous bass line. While we all know the composition was written and recorded by a contemporary act, “Gurami” sounds as though it could have been part of the soundtrack of a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western or an deep instrumental soul obscurity sampled by the RZA and then later played by El Michels Affair.
Rising, London-based Jazztronica production duo Blue Lab Beats — producer NK-OK and multi-instrumentalist Mr, DM — had rather humble origins, as bedroom producers, who remixed tracks by the likes of Dua Lipa, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man and others. The duo’s sound quickly morphed to incorporate jazz, soul and hip-hop influences while staying true to their British/London roots. Although they’ve started with very humble origins, the British production duo have also quickly exploded into the national and international scenes: they’ve played Glastonbury — and they’ve opened for the likes of the legendary Roy Ayers and Thundercat. They’ve also contributed a remake of Bobby Henderson‘s Blue Note Records‘ classic “Montara,” which appeared on last year’s Blue Note Re: imagined compilation. And adding to a growing profile, the duo’s work has amassed over 25 million streams to date.
2021 has been a busy year for the rising British production duo: They’ve released a handful of critically applauded singles including “Dat It,” “Blow You Away (Delilah)” and “Sensual Loving,” which have seem them collaborating with the like of Stones Throw Records affiliate Kiefer and Afrobeats star Ghetto Boy. Those three singles will appear on the duo’s forthcoming album, currently slated for an early 2022 release.
But in the meantime, the duo’s latest single “Labels” is centered around a The Midnight Hour meets J. Dilla-like production featuring soaring strings, boom bap beats and a sinuous bass line. The production serves as a lush and mesmerizing bed for thoughtful and lovelorn verses from London-based emcee Kofi Stone that find him questioning the need for labels to define what his romantic relationship is to others. Sometimes, love is just that that — and that’s all it has to be. The song also features a soulful hook by London-based vocalist Tiana Major9.
“Originally ‘Labels’ started out with my chord progression that I was sitting on for about 6 months and then I gave the rough idea to Mr DM for him to have input on.” Blue Lab Beats’ NK-OK explains. “We then built the track from there. Before getting the vocalists we wanted on this song we got Stephen Hussey to arrange the strings and record the string section and when we heard it back it honestly was so crazy to have live strings on our music. For the vocalist we wanted UK talent on this and so we automatically hit up one of our favourites Tiana Major9. We worked with Tiana in her early recording days so we know how amazingly talented she is. Then it was down to Kofi Stone to deliver the Rap and once again when working with him we all thought ‘this guy is incredible!’”
“A lot of the time we over complicate things. Especially at the early stages of a relationship. You don’t always have to rush for a label cus you think that’s the right thing to do,” Tiana Major9 says of her guest spot. “Learn, love then decide.”
“I was going through what I spoke about on the record so it was good to get off my chest,” Kofi Stone adds.“Working with Blue Lab Beats was a great experience. They are two incredibly talented gentlemen. I just love the musicality they bring and I felt right at home in the studio with the guys.”
Harding’s sophomore album If Words Were Flowers is slated for a Friday releaser through Anti- Records. Written and recorded over the past two tumultuous years, the album’s material is draws from vintage soul, R&B, hip-hop, garage rock and psychedelia and centered around airtight grooves, punchy horns and Cohen’s adventurous production. “Nina Simone said that it’s an artist’s job to reflect the times,” Harding explains. “I think it’s important to live in the moment. If you do that and you’re honest and vulnerable, you can reach the people that need to be reached.”
“Explore” If Words Were Flowers‘ fifth and latest single is a slow-burning song that’s one-part, trippy psych soul with horns and twinkling keys drenched in reverb and delay and one-part classic, Quiet Storm-like soul serving as a silky and sumptuous bed for Harding’s plaintive falsetto croon. But at its core “Explore” sees its narrator diving headfirst into a sea of new experiences — romantically and sensually — with a new partner.
The Roskilde-born, London-based JOVM mainstay first gained attention as a solo artist in her native Denmark, quickly becoming a three-time Scandinavian Soul Award winner. Since relocating to London, the Danish-born JOVM mainstay has become an international sensation, crafting a warm and ethereal sound with elements of jazz, classic soul and contemporary R&B.
While the COVID-19 pandemic had put an indefinite pause on live shows and touring until relatively recently across much of the world, Dahlstrom managed to be one of the busiest and hardest working contemporary artists out thee: After successful collaborations with Tom Misch and Alfa Mist, the Roskilde-born, London-based JOVM mainstay released her highly-anticipated, critically applauded full-length debut Like Sand last year. Recorded in Los Angeles, Copenhagen, and London, the album features collaborations with James Vickery,Jeremy Passion, Elijah Fox,Beau Diako and a list of others. Dahlstrom also continued her ongoing work with the multi-national, all-female artist collective Her Songs — with the act releasing the Toronto Vol. 1 EP.
She also teamed up with London-based producer Dan Diggas and Canadian emcee Aligo on a collaborative EP together 4inaRow. The EP’ was conceived around a central idea — of the trio writing and recording a four-track EP in just four nights with the material being an experimental writing, recording and producing purely on impulse and instinct. Each of the EP’s four songs was recorded between 8:00pm and midnight during four nights — and each individual song has its own story to tell. Generally speaking the process was centered around Diggas providing beats and production while the Dahlstrom and Algo shared vocal duties. “Marie and I lived in the JFH flat for a little over a year and after a few months we figured out a way for us to really tap in and make music together.” Aligo says about the creative process behind the EP. “We told ourselves every night for 4 straight days we are going to tackle a pack of beats that Dan made while he was on tour with Mahalia. Theme-wise there wasn’t a plan at first but we knew we wanted to explore different emotions and feelings with each night that passed. By the end we noticed the songs came together in a cohesive way that demonstrated a four stage cycle of love/relationships.”
The Danish-born, British-based singer/songwriter and producer continues a remarkably prolific period with the Friday release of her latest EP Safe Place through JFH Records. “I wrote this EP during lock down. This was a special time in my life, where everything shifted in a way” Dahlstrom says of the soon-to-be released EP. “I was moving out of my apartment in London, the only place I’d ever lived since I moved. There were no gigs or concerts, society was (and still is) in a strange place, and then there was coronavirus and my pregnancy. It gave me a lot of time to reflect about what really matters and just how lucky we are to be living and experiencing this life.”
The EP’s latest single, EP title track “Safe Place” manages to continue a run of sweet and intimate material, informed by and influenced by personal experience. Featuring a What’s the 411? era Mary J. Blige-inspired production featuring delicately twinkling keys, boom bap beats and atmospheric electronics serving as a silky bed for Dahlstorm’s soulful and earnest delivery, the song reminds listeners to appreciate the people they love the most; that those you love are the ones who are your safe place when the everything else is mad.
Lincoln, NE-based soul and funk outfit Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal — Josh Hoyer (vocals, keys), Blake DeForest (trumpet), Mike Keeling (bass), Benjamin Kushner (guitar) Harrison El Dorado (drums) — formed back in 2012. And since their formation, the Lincoln-based soul and funk outfit. which features some of their city’s most acclaimed and talented musicians, has received attention in the national and international soul and funk scenes for a genre-defying sound inspired by Stax Records, Motown Records, Muscle Shoals, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
During their run together, the Lincoln-based quintet have also developed a reputation for being one of the region’s hardest working bands: They’ve released five albums, including this year’s Eddie Roberts-produced Natural Born Hustler, which featured the The Payback-era James Brown meets 70s Motown-like “Hustler” and sociopolitically charged, bluesy and soulful strut “Sunday Lies.” Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal have supported their albums with several tours across the Continental US and two European tours — and they’ve shared stages with George Clinton, Charles Bradley, Booker T. Jones, Muscle Shoals Soul Revue and an impressive list of others.
The Lincoln-based soul and funk outfit’s latest single, “Automatic” off Natural Born Hustler is a slow-burning and beguiling ballad that’s equal parts 50s doo-wop, Lou Rawls, and Motown/Daptone Records soul. Fittingly for a song centered around a classic and timeless sound and Hoyer’s effortless crooning, the song lyrically focuses on true love and its ability to make all of life’s woes and uncertainties disappear when you’re with your lover. From experience that sort of love is rare; but worthy of celebrating and cherishing.
Oakland-based funk and soul outfit The Grease Traps can trace their origins back through about two decades and two prior projects: Back in 2000, Aaron Julin (keys) answered a classified ad by Kevin O’Dea (guitar), searching for players who were hip to the grooves laid down by Blue Note Records artists like Grant Green and Lou Donaldson. The duo quickly formed Groovement, an act that covered those artists, along with others jazz-funk staples.
As the story goes, in 2005 while still with Brown Baggin,’ Julin and O’Dea began to get fed up juggling the schedules of seven band members, who each had their own varying professional and personal obligations. Julin and O’Dea put out a classified ad seeking a bassist and drummer to jam with as a quartet. The first two musicians, who answered the ad and showed up were Goopy Rossi (bass) and Dave Brick (drums). It was clear from those early jam sessions, that the quartet had a great musical and creative chemistry.
The band’s long-anticipated full-length debut Solid Ground is slated for a November 5, 2021 release through Italian purveyors of funk and soul, Record Kicks. Six years in the making, Solid Ground was recorded between Monophonics’ Kelly Finnigan‘s San Francisco-based Transistor Sound by Finnigan and Ian McDonald and Oakland-based Fifty Filth Studio by Orgone‘s Sergio Rios, live and straight to eight-track tape on a Tascam 388 to recreate that old-school analog sound. The album’s material features guest spots from the Monophonics’ horn section, backing vocals by Bay Area-based vocalists Sally Green and Bryan Dyer, as well as strings organized by Kansas City-based violist Alyssa Bell.
The album’s material features a mix of covers and originals. The originals draw from the Oakland-based soul outfit’s various influences including gritty funk, fuzzy psych soul, lowrider soul and funk. Lyrically and thematically, the album’s material sees The Gata openly discussing the pressing issues of our moment: racism, finding hope in a world that seems pitted against you and so on. The albums’ covers manage to capture the energy of the band’s live set.
Album single ” Birds of Paradise” is a strutting bit of Muscle Shoals, The Meters and The JB’s funk centered around shimmering and arpeggiated Rhodes, a chugging bass line, old school breakbeat-like drumming, wah wah pedaled guitar, a big horn line, and an enormous hook paired with The Gata’s soulful crooning, yelps and howls. Fittingly, the song focuses on affairs of the heart: the song’s narrator brags, struts and attempts to do anything and everything he could to prove that he’s the man for the woman he desires.