Tag: Stax Records

New Audio: Monophonics’ Kelly Finnigan Releases a Strutting and Funky Christmas Tune

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.

New Audio: Monophonics’ Kelly Finnigan Releases a Gorgeous and Soulful Christmas Song

Over the past year or so I’ve written a bit about the acclaimed West Coast-based soul outfit Monophonics — Austin Bohlman (drums), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), Max Ramey (bass) and Kelly Finnigan (lead vocals, keys) – and since their formation, the members of the band have developed a sound and approach that continues in the tradition of Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records. Much like their influences, the Bay Area-based soul outfit’s material is generally centered round a lush, cinematic sound that draws from classic soul, heavy funky and psych rock, recorded on vintage analog gear to give it that period specific sound. Naturally, they’ve paired that with a healthy amount of old-fashioned woodshedding, crafting and McDonald’s and Finnigan’s late night overdubs and studio work. “We’re from the same school as the producers from the studios we love. We use the tools that we have to make the best records we can,” the band said in press notes.

Earlier this year, Monophonics released their third album It’s Only Us earlier this year. The album further cements their reputation for being an act that’s particularly keen to creating and playing a heavier and edgier take on classic soul, while revealing a band that gently refining their sound to incorporate some warmer textures. Thematically, the album’s material focuses son much-needed messages of unity in our fractious and divisive world and of strength, resilience and acceptance.

Capping off a very busy year, Monophonics’ frontman Kelly Finnigan will be releasing his full-length album Joyful Sound through Holly Berry Red (vinyl) and Colemine Records (digitally and CD) on November 24, 2020. Produced by Finnigan, the album will be the third album he’s helmed in the past two years, including his solo debut effort The Tales People Tell and Monophonics aforementioned It’s Only Us. Interestingly, Joyful Sound finds Finnigan crafting and production an album with the elements of a classic R&B record — but 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.”

“No Time To Be Sad,” Joyful Sound’s latest single finds Finnigan firmly establishing himself as key producer, songwriter and producer in the contemporary soul scene. Centered around a lush, Motown Records-inspired arrangement, complete with soaring strings and brooding horns paired with Finnigan’s achingly tender falsetto and a gorgeous melody “No Time To Be Sad” is a classic, make-up tune in which the song’s couple finds a way to make up and have a romantic Christmas — but interestingly enough, the song is the sort of makeup song that can be played almost any time because the sentiment at its core is so deeply universal and so heartfelt.

The rising Lincoln, NE-based soul and funk act 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 act, which features some of the Lincoln area’s most acclaimed musicians, has received attention nationally and internationally for a boundary crossing sound inspired by the sounds of Stax Records, Motown Records, Muscle Shoals, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The Lincoln-based quintet have developed a reputation for being of the area’s hardest working bands: releasing four, critically applauded albums, including last year’s Do It Now, the members of the rising soul act have played hundreds of shows and have made several tours across the Continental United States and two European tours, opening for the George Clinton,Charles Bradley, Booker T. Jones, and Muscle Shoals Soul Revue and others.

Further cementing their reputation as one of the Plain States’ hardest working bands, the members of the Lincoln-based soul act will be releasing their Eddie Roberts-produced fifth later later this year through Color Red Records. “Hustler,” the album’s cinematic, third and latest single is a strutting bit of soul, prominently featuring Hoyer’s soulful, Tom Jones-like vocals, a commanding horn arrangement, a sinuous bass line, shimmering organ arpeggios and an enormous and rousingly anthemic hook. While seemingly possessing elements of The Payback-era James Brown, 70s Motown, Muscle Shoals, Daptone and Memphis soul in a seamless yet period specific synthesis, the upbeat track manages to be one-part much-needed proverbial kick in the ass and one part much-needed rallying cry for our unprecedented and uncertain moment, centered around the assuring yet forceful line “When the world wants you to sink or swim, I ain’t goin’ under.”

Things may be bleak right now but keep fighting y’all. There’s much hard and necessary work to be done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spencer Kilpatrick is a Big Water, UT-based blues guitarist and singer/songwriter, who has built a profile regionally for playing Stax Records-infused soul and blues with a smoky, aching croon.  Kilpatrick has sporadically released material online for some time now, including his latest four song EP, four big water bluses, which he wrote and recorded after losing weekly gigs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spending the bulk of his 20s in garage rock bands, Kilpatrick’s latest effort finds him returning to some of his earliest musical influences — the blues — as a conscious step outside of the comfort zone he had developed for himself. The EP’s third track “the one where you wait for vocals to come in”  really caught my ear. Centered around shimmering and expressive guitar work, the track is a slow-burning classic blues-inspired song that the emerging Utah-bass artist says was inspired by Mdou Moctar, Jimi Hendrix‘s instrumental version of “Born Under A Bad Sign” and Funkadelic‘s “Maggot Brain” — with a subtly lysergic air.

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New Audio: Monophonics Release a Swooning and Shimmering Ballad

Since their formation, the Bay Area-based soul outfit Monophonics — Austin Bohlman (drums), Ian McDonald (guitar, backing vocals), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), Max Ramey (bass) and Kelly Finnigan (lead vocals, keys) –have developed an approach that continues in the classic and beloved tradition of Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records: much like their influences, the Bay Area soul outfit’s material is centered by an incredibly cinematic sound that draws heavily from classic soul, heavy funk, psych rock  recorded on vintage analog recording gear. This is paired with a healthy amount of old-fashion woodshedding, crafting and McDonald’s and Finnigan’s late night overdubs and studio work. “We’re from the same school as the producers from the studios we love. We use the tools that we have to make the best records we can,” the band says in press notes. 

Monophonics’ third full-length album It’s Only Us is slated for a March 13, 2020 release though Colemine Records. While the album will further cement their long-held reputation for being an act that’s keen to creating and playing a heavier and edgier version of classic soul, and for arguably being one of the Bay Area’s best classic soul-inspired acts, the album reportedly is a reflection of what the band sees as the current, troubling direction of our world. Thematically, the album touches upon much-needed messages of unity in a fractious and divisive world, strength, resilience and acceptance. Also, sonically, It’s Only Us reportedly finds the rising soul act gently refining their signature sound with a healthy dose of new and warmer textures. 

Last year, I wrote about “Chances,” It’s Only Us’ lush and uptempo bit of two-step inducing soul that sounds like a crate digger’s dream of stumbling across some obscure and dusty Northern soul or classic American soul from the mid 60s. But at its core, the song warned empathetic lovers to think twice about giving that straying lover another chance, making the song an aching and age-old tale of the difficulties of saying goodbye to a no-good lover — even when it’s absolutely necessary.  It’s Only Us’ second and latest single, album title track “It’s Only Us” is a lush and swooning track, centered around an achingly gorgeous brass line, shimmering keys and guitars, a sinuous bass line and Finnigan’s soulful and vulnerable crooning — and while being both subtly psychedelic and cinematic in a way that recalls Curtis Mayfield, Issac Hayes and others, the song, as the band’s Kelly Finnigan explains “is about the first time you tell someone you love them. It’s that moment in life so many of us have had where we make ourselves our most vulnerable. While on the outside, it has the qualities of a traditional love song, underneath it is an anthem for humanity. Right now, we are witnessing a time where so many people feel polarized and there is a divisive mood in the country. inside the story is a message of unity, trust and acceptance that goes beyond falling in love.” 

 

Since their formation, the Bay Area-based soul outfit Monophonics — Austin Bohlman (drums), Ian McDonald (guitar, backing vocals), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), Max Ramey (bass) and Kelly Finnigan (lead vocals, keys) –have developed a approach that continues in the classic and beloved tradition of Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records: an incredibly cinematic sound that draws from classic soul, heavy funk, psych rock and classic American song craft, recorded on vintage analog recording gear. Along with that there’s a healthy amount of old-fashioned woodshedding and McDonald’s and Finnigan’s late night overdubs and studio work. We’re from the same school as the producers from the studios we love. We use the tools that we have to make the best records we can,” the band says.

Simultaneously known as an act that’s keen to create a heavier version of classic soul, and as one of the best contemporary purveyors of the classic soul sound by those in the know, the Bay Area-based act’s  third album It’s Only Us is slated for release next year through Colemine Records. Reportedly, the album is a reflection of what the band sees as the current direction of the world while thematically touching upon messages of unity, strength, resilience and acceptance. Sonically, the album finds the band gently refining their signature sound with a healthy dose of new and warm textures.

“Chances” It’s Only Us‘ first single is a lush and uptempo bit of two-step inducing soul that’s one part deep, crate digging Northern soul and classic American soul, centered around a propulsive drumming, a sinuous bass line, fluttering vibraphone, shimmering guitar, bold and lustrous horns. Out in the front of the mix, Finnigan and background vocalists the Soul Mates sing lyrics warning empathetic lovers to think twice about giving that straying lover another chance, making the song an aching and age-old tell off about the difficulties of saying goodbye — even when it’s necessary.

 



New Video: The Artfully Surreal Visuals for Tolliver’s “Emmanuel”

Born to a Baptist pastor father and a gospel singing mother, Tolliver is a Chicago, IL-born, Los Angeles, CA-based electro R&B artist, who played in a number of Stax Records-inspired acts, including Black Diet, an act that received best new band nods from a number of publications and filmed a nationally syndicated PBS special at the end of 2014. Since then, the Chicago-born, Los Angeles-based pop artist has been supporting himself by editing Mormon gay porn while his solo work — notably his solo debut EP Rave Deep received attention for focusing on late night partying, getting high and anonymous sex; however, his forthcoming EP Rites reportedly focuses on the sacred and the profane, capturing who had a deeply religious childhood and now is living in a sin-filled, ungodly present, and is tormented by his guilt.

Now, as you might recall earlier this year, I wrote about “I Gotchu,” an atmospheric and moody track that draw from gospel, neo-soul and jazz and centered around an aching expressing of guilt, shame and vulnerability that felt all too human and familiar. The EP’s latest single “Emmanuel” is centered around an atmospheric production featuring fluttering, arpeggiated synths and Tolliver’s aching falsetto soaring over the production — and in some way, the song expresses and evokes a longing for someone and something just out of reach and perhaps in some way forbidden.

Much like the visuals for “I Gotchu.” the Kellen Malloy-directed video for the song employs the contrasts between light and dark, as it features Tolliver sitting alone in an empty studio — except for the cameraperson — as he puts on a bright jacket, preens in front of a mirror and distractedly cuts an onion, and spends the rest of the video in front of a flashlight. And while possessing a feverish and surreal logic, the video evokes a man trapped in a vacillating cycle of loathing and guilt.

Karl Blau is an Anacortes, WA-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who over the course of his 20+ year career as a musician has developed a now, long-held reputation for an eclectic, genre-defying approach as his sound routinely incorporates elements of folk, dub, R&B, Bossa nova, grunge, hip-hop, drone and worldbeat among others, as well as being a member of the Knw-Yr-Own/K Records collective. Along with that Blau has played in a number of bands including D+, Brothers Blau, Captain Fathom and Your Heart Breaks, and has collaborated with a number of Washington-based musicians including The MicrophonesPhil Elverum, Mount Eerie, LAKE, Earth and Laura Veirs. And additionally, Blau has released material through his Kelp Lunacy Advanced Plagiarism Society monthly subscription service.

And although Blau has writing, recording and releasing albums for over 20 years, he hadn’t received European distribution until 2015 when renowned indie label Bella Union Records released Introducing Karl Blau, which was considered by many — including album producer Tucker Martine, as shining a light on “one of the great hidden treasures of music.” Interestingly, Introducing featured gorgeous, lush covers of Nashville country/soul; however, his latest effort Out Her Space continues an ongoing collaboration with Spacebomb Records‘ founder Matthew E. White that goes back to 2009.

 

As the story goes, Spacebomb Records’ Matthew E. White had asked Blau to helm the recording sessions for his band Great White Jenkins. When White started Spacebomb Records in 2012, he envisioned the label as having a house band in the style of old school Stax Records and Motown Records. After White started the label, he called Blau to collaborate once again on an album — the critically applauded Big Inner. As the story goes, after hearing the Out Her Space demos, White suggested that the Spacebomb Records house band, centered Cameron Ralston (bass), who’s now a member of Fleet Foxes; Pinson Chanselle (drums) and White (guitar, synth), along with Megafaun’s Phil Cook (piano) and a cast of collaborators, who contributed horns, viola and backing vocals — with the album material being something of a cousin to its predecessor.

The album thematically speaking plays with humanitarian themes, against a backdrop of self-immolating American politics; in fact, as Blau explains in press notes, the album’s title was inspired by an “overwhelming feeling to point out that men, in general, need to listen, to stop being so assertive and get out of her space, let her balance again. Chill out dudes, rather than lead us over the cliff.” Sonically speaking, the material, as you’ll hear on album single “Beckon” is a languid and shimmering track that draws from 70s AM rock, classic soul, funk and Afropop with a slick, carefully crafted hook.

Blau has an upcoming NYC area show 1/11/18 at Rough Trade to promote the album.  [TICKETS/INFO]

 

 

 

 

Live Music Photography: Take Me to the River Live at Brooklyn Bowl 2/11/15 feat. William Bell, Bobby Rush, Otis Clay, Frayser Boy, Al Kapone, Jerry Harrison, The Staxx Records Band and The Staxx Music Academy All-Star Broomfield Band

Live Music Photography: Take Me to the River Live at Brooklyn Bowl featuring William Bell, Bobby Rush, Otis Clay, Frayser Boy, Al Kapone, Jerry Harrison, The Staxx Records Band and The Staxx Music Academy All-Star […]