October 2019 Black Music Releases of Note

Following are additional albums released during October 2019 across multiple genres—some will be reviewed in future issues of Black Grooves. Continue reading

Avery R. Young – Tubman

 

Title: Tubman
Artist: Avery R. Young
Label: FPE
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 19, 2019

 

Chicago poet and musician Avery R. Young’s new release, Tubman, is promoted as a soundtrack to his first volume of poetry, neckbone: visual verses (Northwestern University Press, June 2019), and serves as a platform for extending and exploring the book’s many interwoven themes through music. Accompanied by his group, De Deacon Board, Young’s brilliant cross-genre album dedicated to Harriet Tubman certainly stands on its own merits. The provocative tracks frequently delve into socio-political commentary, while Young’s musical palette is deeply rooted in the Delta—“the blues, the gospel, that swamp type of rock ‘n’ roll.” As one might expect from this poet, other influences include The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, as well as ‘70s soul musicians such as Curtis Mayfield and Otis Redding, the Black church, and the Black Arts Movement. Plus funk, lots of funk! Continue reading

Soul Brass Band – Levels

 

Title: Levels
Artist: Soul Brass Band
Label: Independent
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 19, 2019

 

The Soul Brass Band, under the leadership of front man Derrick Freeman, just released their newest album Levels. Before founding this New Orleans-based brass band, Freeman—a virtuoso percussionist, vocalist, and pianist—performed with Kermit Ruffins as well as other notable bands like Mass Hysteria and Coolbone. Levels mixes the sounds of the brass band with soul, R&B, and hip hop, and includes lyrics that uplift and encourage people to ‘keep on pushin’ and enduring through the different spheres of life. The title track, “Levels,” as well as “How Far We Come” and “Ease on Down The Road” all articulate this positive mentality that stimulate and elevate one’s consciousness. Musically speaking, the album maintains a consistent level of high spirited energy throughout. From the lush and crisp harmonies in the horns to dynamic head-bopping grooves in the rhythm section, Levels certainly creates the perfect party atmosphere for all listeners. 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

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

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

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

Roscoe Robinson – Turn Right and Go Straight

 

Title: Turn Right and Go Straight
Artist: Roscoe Robinson
Label: Abkco
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: June 29, 2018

 

Born in 1928, singer-songwriter Roscoe Robinson recently cut two new tracks in celebration of his 90th birthday. The longtime resident of Birmingham, Alabama, has performed with several significant gospel groups, including the Highway QC’s back when Sam Cooke was a member, as well as the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Blind Boys of Mississippi. Like Cooke, Robinson also crossed over into secular music, gaining recognition as a soul singer in the 1960s with several charting hits, and later releasing recordings on the Atlantic, Fame, Paula, and Sound Stage 7 labels. Continue reading

Stax Records’ Year of Crisis and Grit

 

Title: Stax ’68 – A Memphis Story
Artist: Various
Label: Stax/Craft Recordings
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 19, 2018

 

1968 was a year that tested Stax Records, the wellspring of Memphis Soul, to its soul. The label emerged victorious, but the story of its three-pronged existential crisis and how the company and its key personnel responded is an epic chapter in music-industry history. Continue reading

Mourning [A] Blkstar – The Garner Poems

 

Title: The Garner Poems
Artist: Mourning [A] Blkstar
Label: Electric Cowbell
Formats: Limited ed. CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 26, 2018

 

Ohio band Mourning [A] Blkstar is a “multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.” They define the sound of their sophomore album, The Garner Poems, as “Afro futurist soul music, balancing hip hop production techniques with lo fi experimentation to create a sonic suite that eulogizes victims of police brutality.” These eulogies, or poems, serve as both a force of light and a schematic for hope, survival and independence.  Continue reading

Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: The Saru Label

 

Title: Eccentric Soul: The Saru Label
Artist: Various
Label: Numero Group
Formats: CD, 2-LP, Digital
Release date: March 23, 2018

 

This exploration of Cleveland’s Saru label, released earlier this year, is another fine addition to Numero’s Eccentric Soul series featuring lost gems from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Due to its fascinating connections to Ohio funk, the Saru compilation is also one of our favorites. Label owner Chuck Brown set up a management team that included Bobby Massey, one of the original members of the O’Jays, and Calvin Simon, an original member of the Parliaments with George Clinton, and later the Parliament-Funkadelic collective. These two influential staff members assembled talent for the backing bands and also produced and performed on many of the sessions. Continue reading

Maxwell – Embrya 20th Anniversary Reissue

 

Title: Embrya 20th Anniversary Reissue
Artist: Maxwell
Label: Sony Music
Formats: 2-LP
Release Date: September 28, 2018

 

Maxwell’s sophomore album, Embrya, was released in 1988 at the peak of the neo-soul movement and changed the course of the singer’s career. The seductive ballads and slow grooves of tracks such as “Matrimony: Maybe You” resonated with his female fan base, who propelled the album to #2 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart and earned Maxwell a Grammy Award nomination for best R&B album. Continue reading

Al Green – The Hi Records Singles Collection

 

Title: The Hi Records Singles Collection
Artist: Al Green
Label: Fat Possum
Format: 3-CD set
Release date: November 9, 2018

 

In 1969, budding soul singer Al Green met Memphis record producer Willie Mitchell, and the rest, as they say, is history. Mitchell signed Green to his Hi Records label, and over the next decade he released a dozen albums, half of which topped the charts. Continue reading

Book – Soul R&B Funk Photographs, 1972-1982

 

Title: Soul R&B Funk Photographs, 1972-1982
Author: Bruce W. Talamon
Publisher: Taschen
Format: Hardcover, 375 pages
Release date: October 2018

 

The coffee table book of the year for soul and funk music fans is without a doubt this oversize, hardcover volume featuring the early photographs of Bruce W. Talamon. Those who are familiar with SOUL newspaper will recognize some of these images. Started in L.A. in 1968 by Ken Jones and Regina Jones, SOUL was the first black-owned paper dedicated to R&B, soul and funk musicians. Talamon was hired in 1972 by Regina, who gave the young photographer his first steady gig, and before long he was shooting for national publications. From 1972-1982, Talamon captured R&B royalty in stunning detail—working up a sweat in concert, dancing on the stage of Soul Train, striking a pose during formal photo shoots, and enjoying quieter moments backstage and on the road. Continue reading