Welcome to the May 2019 Issue

Welcome to the May 2019 issue of Black Grooves, sponsored by the Indiana University Archives of African American Music and Culture. Our featured title this month is Rhiannon Giddens’ third solo album, there is no Other, which speaks to the practice of “othering people” for economic and political gain.

New R&B/soul music releases include albums from both veterans and rising stars: the O’Jays’ first studio album in 15 years, The Last Word; Durand Jones & The Indications sophomore album American Love Call; Memphis band Southern Avenue’s sophomore album Keep On; British singer/songwriter/cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson’s classical-infused Road Runner; and Canadian soul star Tanika Charles’ The Gumption.

Rolling Stones’ back-up singer Bernard Fowler presents Inside Out, featuring covers of classic and lesser known Stone’s songs in a spoken word style, and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra offers the tribute album Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint.

Gospel music releases include Earl Bynum’s This Song’s For You, The Tommies Reunion (aka Thompson Community Singers) self-titled album, and Live on the East Coast from Florida sacred steel group The Lee Boys.

Wrapping up this issue is our list of April 2019 Black Music Releases of Note.

Rhiannon Giddens – there is no Other

 

Title: there is no Other
Artist: Rhiannon Giddens
Label: Nonesuch Records
Formats: CD, Digital
Release Date: May 3, 2019

 

there is no Other is the third solo studio album from former Carolina Chocolate Drops member, Rhiannon Giddens, following Tomorrow is My Turn (2015) and Freedom Highway (2017). This new release is also her first formal collaboration with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. Both Giddens and Turrisi share similar musical passions rooted in a desire to unearth hidden or underexplored roots of certain styles of music. For Rhiannon, her interests lie with African American influences on folk or Americana music, while Turrisi focuses on the Mediterranean (Middle Eastern and North African) influences on the music of Southern Europe. Continue reading

The O’Jays – The Last Word

 

Title: The Last Word
Artist: The O’Jays
Label: S-Curve
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 19, 2019

 

The O’Jays are back with their new project, The Last Word, and it’s like they never left.  Fans once again can experience the classic Philadelphia soul sound of Eddie Levert Sr., Walter Williams Sr. and Eric Nolan Grant (who joined the group in 1995), whose smooth, rich harmonies are backed by elaborate arrangements and lush strings. The new release is the O’Jays’ first studio album in 15 years and regrettably is said to be their final album. Grammy nominated producers Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini and R&B legend Betty Wright assisted with the production. Continue reading

Durand Jones & the Indications – American Love Call

 

Title: American Love Call
Artist: Durand Jones & the Indications
Label: Dead Oceans/Colemine
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: March 1st, 2019

 

America’s new favorite soul band, Durand Jones & the Indications, have released yet another electrifying album packed full of love ballads, message songs and that live studio band sound that has listeners wanting to dust off their old record players. The group’s sophomore album, American Love Call, has gained much success since its release in March. Rolling Stone magazine wrote, “While the messages on American Love Call can be more pointed, the sound is more honeyed.” This “honeyed” sound is the doo wop vocals on ballads such as “Court of Love,” featuring drummer Aaron Frazer’s fine falsetto, and the smooth rhythm and blues vocal harmonies on “What I Know About You.”  The group’s grittier soulful side is demonstrated by Jones on the ‘60s inspired message song, “Morning in America.” Continue reading

Southern Avenue – Keep On

 

Title: Keep On
Artist: Southern Avenue
Label: Concord Records
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: May 10, 2019

 

Southern Avenue was the talk of Memphis when they released their self-titled debut album in 2017, which hit #6 on Billboard’s Top Blues Albums Chart. Listeners loved the group’s effortless soul, blues, and R&B fusion and the band went on to perform in high-profile festivals as well as reach the finals of the International Blues Challenge. After two years of touring and working tirelessly on their music, Southern Avenue is releasing their much-anticipated sophomore album, Keep On. Continue reading

Ayanna Witter-Johnson – Road Runner

 

Title: Road Runner
Artist: Ayanna Witter-Johnson
Label: Hill and Gully Records
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 26, 2019

 

A singer, songwriter, and cellist in a class all her own, Ayanna Witter-Johnson has taken a classic R&B sound and turned it on its head. Born in the UK, Ayanna has been honing her craft for quite some time now, earning music degrees from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the Manhattan School of Music. She has worked as a composer and arranger with both Hugh Masekela and the London Symphony Orchestra as well as the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Ayanna has released several EPs—Truthfully Still (2011), Black Panther (2015) and Ella, Reuben & Ay (2018)and now offers her full-length debut album Road Runner. Continue reading

Tanika Charles – The Gumption

 

Title: The Gumption
Artist: Tanika Charles
Label: Record Kicks
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release Date: May 10, 2019

 

Canadian soul star Tanika Charles’ newest release, The Gumption, picks up where her debut album left off, modernizing traditional soul with contemporary production styles. The 12-track album opens with Charles asking, “what gave you the gumption?”—a strong statement that sets the tone for the tracks to come. Continue reading

New Orleans Jazz Orchestra – Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint

 

Title: Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint
Artist: New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
Label: Storyville
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: April 19, 2019

 

The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) is back at it again with their latest album release, Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint. Released just two years after their Live at Newport (2017), and four years after Dee Dee’s Feathers (2015), Songs pays tribute to New Orleans’ legendary composer, pianist, and singer Allen Toussaint. Under the leadership of drummer/artistic director Adonis Rose, NOJO takes us on journey of Toussaint’s musical legacy from a big band’s perspective. Continue reading

Bernard Fowler – Inside Out

 

Title: Inside Out
Artist: Bernard Fowler
Label: Rhyme and Reason
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: April 19, 2019

 

Bernard Fowler has had an impressive career for being someone whose name flies under the radar of the average mainstream listener. He has recorded with composers such as Philip Glass, jazz legend Herbie Hancock, and rock icon Alice Cooper. Inside Out, Fowler’s newest release, presents a unique interpretation of the music of the Rolling Stones that will sound fresh and new to even the most seasoned Rolling Stones fan. As a performer, Fowler has worked as a backup singer and percussionist for the Rolling Stones both live and in the studio since 1988, so he is very familiar with the band’s style. Yet these tracks are more than just arrangements of Rolling Stones songs that he has performed—they are new musical compositions on top of which Fowler interprets the lyrics in a spoken-word format in the style of Last Poets and Gil Scot-Heron. Continue reading

The Lee Boys – Live on the East Coast

 

Title: Live on the East Coast
Artist: The Lee Boys
Label: M.C. Records
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 19, 2019

 

Over the past decade, a number of “sacred steel” bands have left the confines of the church to take center stage on the festival circuit. The Lee Boys of Miami, Florida, have emerged as a crowd favorite, as demonstrated by their new release, Live on the East Coast. Recorded in 2018 at three different venues, the album includes live performances of previously released songs as well as a few gems making their first appearance on record. Continue reading