Welcome to the July 2019 Issue

Welcome to the July 2019 Summer Rocks issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture.

This month we’re featuring albums that represent the many permutations of rock, from the Black rock power trio Hundred Watt Heart (ft. “Captain” Kirk Douglas of The Roots) on Turbulent Times, to the three volume 20th Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schizznits from Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber, to the roots of rock and roll on the Bear Family compilation Little Junior Parker Rocks, to the desert rock of Malian artist Oumar Konate on I Love You Inna, to the rocking zydeco of Dwayne Dopsie on Bon Ton. Also included in this line-up are a slew of debut albums from up and coming bands: Made In Pieces from the UK’s six piece collective Pieces of a Man; self-titled releases from Austin’s Black Pumas and New York rock and soul group John The Martyr; the solo side project Nothing to Say from Alan Evans (Soulive); Believe from self-proclaimed punk empress Cole Williams; Samsara from the Austin band Los Coast; and Cousin From Another Planet from Aaron Whitby featuring Martha Redbone, Lisa Fischer and Tamar Kali.

Jazz releases include the Wayne Wallace Latin Rhythm Jazz Quintet’s The Rhythm of Invention and tenor-saxophonist Jordon Dixon’s On! Our classical pick of the month is pianist-composer Stewart Goodyear’s Gershwin & Goodyear and our gospel pick is Kirk Franklin’s Long Live Love.

Wrapping up this issue is the timely Putumayo compilation World Peace and our list of June 2019 Black Music Releases of Note.

Hundred Watt Heart – Turbulent Times

 

Title: Turbulent Times
Artist: Hundred Watt Heart
Label: Whole Leap
Formats: LP, Digital
Release date: May 24, 2019

 

Hundred Watt Heart’s Turbulent Times is the first solo recording by “Captain” Kirk Douglas from The Roots. Joined by The Roots bassist Mark Kelley, the Hundred Watt Heart is a Black rock power trio rounded out by drummer Ricc Sheridan from the band Earl Greyhound (the three also perform together as The Dust Rays). Given the power trio theme, it is appropriate that this album was recorded at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in New York. The eight tracks feature excellent songwriting and musicianship that is at times bare-bones rock and roll, and at other times well-produced pseudo-psychedelia. The entire band is first-rate, and Douglas is outstanding both as a vocalist and a guitarist. Perhaps most impressive is Douglas’s restraint as a guitar player. On tracks like “Uma” he demonstrates that he can play at a top-tier level when he wants to, but unlike some other highly technical guitarists, Douglas does not populate the entire album with flashy guitar licks. Continue reading

Black Pumas Self-Titled Debut Album

 

Title: Black Pumas
Artist: Black Pumas
Label: ATO
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: June 21, 2019

 

Already hailed as a breakout band of 2019, the Austin-based duo Black Pumas just dropped their self-titled debut album. The group is the brainchild of Adrian Quesada, former guitarist with the Latin funk band Grupo Fantasma, who began assembling tracks in his studio before seeking a lead singer. Friends connected him with Eric Burton, a California native and recent Austin transplant, whose vocal prowess is rooted in the Black church and honed in musical theater. To say the two musicians hit it off would be an understatement; Burton’s songwriting skills complimented Quesada’s production experience and they shared a musical vision. The duo’s chemistry is apparent on every track, and with the additional of an ace backup band they appear unstoppable, with solid bookings through the end of the year. The opening track and first single, “Black Moon Rising,” provides a taste of their distinctive brand of soul, which draws heavily from the past but is equally grounded in the present: Continue reading

Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber – 20th Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schizznits Vol. 1-3

 

Title: 20th Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schizznits Vol. 1-3
Artist: Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber
Label: TruGroid/Dist. CD Baby
Formats: 3 CDs, Digital
Release date: 2019

 

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the acclaimed and renowned experimental soul-jazz-hip hop ensemble, Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber. Founded in 1999 by Village Voice critic, black music scholar and guitarist Greg Tate and co-leader/bassist Jared Michael Nickerson, Burnt Sugar was, and is, a collective of musicians creating music that traverses black music styles, genres, and eras. According to Tate and Nickerson, “Burnt Sugar was originally conceived as a forum for the New York area improvisational musician to compose, record and perform material which reflects the breadth and depth of African diasporan music in the 21st century.” To commemorate their illustrious career, Burnt Sugar recently released their three volume album compilation, 20th Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schizznits. Continue reading

Little Junior Parker Rocks

 

Title: Rocks
Artist: Little Junior Parker
Label: Bear Family
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 5, 2019

 

Little Junior Parker (1932-1971) is the most recent artist to be featured on Bear Family’s long-running Rocks! series, which focuses on “the best upbeat recordings of seminal roots music artists.” Though Parker’s life “was tragically truncated by a brain tumor,” the blues harpist “had enough time to leave behind a bountiful blues recording legacy that stretched across two decades.” As explained by Bill Dahl, reissue producer and author of the extensive liner notes, Parker released a string of R&B and blues hits for two of the seminal independent labels of the postwar era: Sam Phillips’ Sun Records in Memphis and Don Robey’s Houston-based Duke imprint.” Both are represented on this compilation. Continue reading

Pieces of a Man – Made in Pieces

 

Title: Made in Pieces
Artist: Pieces of a Man
Label: Tru Thoughts
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 12, 2019

 

Pieces of a Man (POAM) is a collective of musicians living in Manchester, England  comprised of Pils (Illya Gosling) on keyboards/sax, Mark Parkinson on guitar, Tim Curry on bass, Aden Peets on drums and beats, with lead singer/synth player To!u A¡ay and on talkbox/vocoder and David “DK” Klien on live effects. This is no typical band! Their music can be described as cross-genre, inspired by the likes of Ron Kenoly, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock and Israel Houghton. POAM also draws from more modern soul influencers such as D’Angelo, Dwele and Jill Scott “to create immersive, textured soundscapes built with hip-hop, funk and R&B.” Continue reading

John the Martyr Self-Titled Debut Album

 

Title: John the Martyr
Artist: John the Martyr
Label: Plus One
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: June 14, 2019

 

It’s becoming a familiar story: young soul music enthusiast encounters a seasoned elder who hasn’t performed professionally for years, and invites him or her to front a band. In this instance, the band is the ten-piece rock and soul group John the Martyr, and the elder is none other than 70-year-old Harlem soul singer Bill Hudson, who had been earning extra cash performing with a doo-wop group in the New York subway. Now, just two years after their formation, John the Martyr has released its eponymous debut album to wide acclaim. You may have already heard their first single, “Crossing the Line,” which is brimming over with a youthful enthusiasm tempered by the gravitas of Hudson’s vocals that reflect the septuagenarian’s lived experience: Continue reading

Alan Evans – Nothing To Say

 

Title: Nothing To Say
Artist: Alan Evans
Label: Vintage League Music
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: May 24, 2019

 

Don’t let the title fool you—Alan Evans has plenty to say on his solo debut album. Steeped in psychedelic rock and funk, Nothing To Say finds Evans stepping out from behind his drum kit and away from his acclaimed funk/jazz trio Soulive. The album’s ten original tracks were written, recorded, and produced over the past four years by Evans and released on his Vintage League Music label. In addition to laying down the drum tracks, the singer and multi-instrumentalist performs all vocals as well as guitar, bass, keys and percussion. Joining Evans on this outing are guitarists Danny Mayer and Ryan Hommel, who doubles on pedal steel, with Darby Wolf, Kris Yunker, Beau Sasser, and brother Neal Evans (Soulive) filling in on Moog, organ, piano and Mellotron. This keyboard centric mix is heavy on the organ, creating a soulful yet funky feel throughout, but includes enough stellar guitar solos to rock hard. Continue reading

Cole Williams – Believe

 

Title: Believe
Artist: Cole Williams
Label: Louisiana Red Hot
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: May 31, 2019

 

After making a name for herself as a vocalist and percussionist with the Brooklyn-based quintet Pimps of Joytime and contributing background vocals for numerous artists, Cole Williams decided she was ready for a reboot. The Jamaican-American singer-songwriter and self-described “punk empress” relocated to New Orleans in 2015 and formed the Cole Williams Band, then set out to invoke an “African Rock Revolution.” Her new solo album, Believe, offers eleven original tracks all written, produced, and performed by the talented Williams. From the distorted soul of “Opposites ATTRACT” to the electro/hip hop vibe of “Turn Up,” the album gets off to a righteous start. Other highlights include the densely packed soundscape of the manifesto “Single Black FEmelle,” the good vibes of “Get High,” and the cautionary tale of “Sin City.” The album closes on a high note with the mid-tempo title track, “BeLieVe,” featuring jazzy, multilayered vocals over a punchy horn section on this affirmative song about love and relationships.  Though Believe is more experimental, free flowing, and synth heavy than Williams’ previous efforts, the album should still strike a chord for fans of her unique blend of rock and soul music. Continue reading

Aaron Whitby – Cousin From Another Planet

 

Title: Cousin From Another Planet
Artist: Aaron Whitby
Label: Ropeadope
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 21, 2019

 

British producer, composer, songwriter, and keyboardist Aaron Whitby has worked with many legendary rock and funk musicians, including the late Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison (Ohio Players), George Clinton (Parliament Funkadelic) and Vernon Reid (Living Colour). On his debut solo album, Cousin From Another Planet, Whitby crash lands on Earth to create a masterful fusion of jazz, rock and funk brewed in the cosmos of the 1970s. Assisting with the creation of his “percolating, stimulating and motor-booty activatin’” music (as described by Greg Tate in the liner notes), is Charlie Burnham (violin), Keith Loftis (tenor sax), Fred Cash (electric bass), Gary Fritz (percussion), and Rodney Homes (drums). Other denizens of this universe include three goddesses of rock, punk, and soul: singers Lisa Fischer, Tamar Kali, and Whitby’s longtime collaborator Martha Redbone. Continue reading