Thursday 20 December 2018

Best of 2018 (pt2): funk & soul

This is the second of a three-part series celebrating the music of 2018: in part 2 we focus on the funk and soul releases that blew our minds this year.  The accompanying radio show aired Wednesday 19th December but you can catch it again at the bottom of this article for music by The Suffers, Gillespie & Co, Jose James and much more...

'The One' by Will Sessions & Amp Fiddler featuring Dames Brown
Serving as an exquisite slice of Detroit soul, the prolific Amp Fiddler teams with fellow Detroit flag wavers and one of today's premier funk & soul bands, Will Sessions, for their collaborative project 'The One'.  With eight tracks clocking in at just under forty minutes, the collective don't waste a single second with one of the year's absolute best releases.  Joining them on their journey are the vocal trio, Dames Brown, who have been present on the last few Amp Fiddler releases ('Motor City Booty' and 'Amp Dog Knights') and genuinely shine throughout 'The One'.

'Lucinda Slim' by Lucinda Slim [Haggis Records]
Although seeking heavy inspiration from classic funk and northern soul stylings as laid down down by the genre's heroes like Lyn Collins and Brenda Holloway, Lucinda uses this eight-track, self-titled release to firmly establish her own style and cement her name as a forerunner in voices amidst an ever-flourishing UK scene.  Blue-in-Green:RADIO was thrilled to have secured time with Lucinda Slim to discuss the new project, as well as having had Lucinda guest on an episode of Blue-in-Green Sessions presenting her project as the 'album of the week'.

'Undercover Mixtape' by Orgone [Colemine Recordings]
Thirteen tracks of funk and soul greatness awaits you on the new covers album by some of LA's finest purveyors of funk and soul, now aligned with the incredible Colemine Records.  Tracks like Aretha Franklin's 'Think', Gwen McCrae's 'All This Love That I'm Giving' and Cameo's 'It's Serious' are recreated with dynamic and inspired results.  The album has been steeped in praise since its release - not only proving to be a highlight for 2018, but deservedly ranking amongst the absolute best - if not THE best - covers album ever recorded.  Whatever it is Orgone have managed to bottle, it's unbridled musical magic!

'Ruthless Day' by Gizelle Smith [Jalapeno Records]
Gizelle Smith has long been one of the leading, dynamic and most exciting names in the UK's funk & soul scene.  Her debut full-length project - the dream combination with Hamburg's The Mighty Mocambos - suitably titled 'This is Gizelle Smith & The Mighty Mocambos' was released on Legere Recordings incredibly as far back now as 2009 and proved to be a seminal project for both parties.  Musician, performer, writer, composer, radio presenter... it's difficult not to get excited by anything Gizelle Smith turns her hand to and with releases through Legere Recordings, Record Kicks, Mocambo Records and Kay Dee Records already under her belt, it's Jalapeno Records who have the fortune of housing 2018 album 'Ruthless Day'.

'The Midnight Hour' by Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge [Linear Labs]
Having extended their musical partnership beyond the soundtrack to Netflix's Luke Cage, Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge unveil a stunning release.  Brimming with great guests including Raphael Saadiq, Bilal, Marsha Ambrosius, Questlove, No ID, James Poyser and more, this is a classicly-themed soul album, rich in a crispy analog sound accentuated by lush orchestral strings, great production and stellar vocals.  Not one to miss!

'Everything Here' by The Suffers [Shanachie Entertainment]
The independent release of The Suffers’ self-titled debut album spawned a fantastic year for them: performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, as well as a performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series, which for an independent soul act was a staggering achievement.  Now, having aligned with Shanachie Entertainment for 'Everything Here', the band look set to ascend to that next plateau.  The Suffers have become quite adept at making their music an extension of themselves as individuals and as a collective - they wear their influences, passions and motivations on their sleeves and have delivered another stunning work of a pure soul record and something that would enrich anyone’s musical collection.

'Breathe' by We Are Leif
The Bristol four-piece of We Are Leif released their debut album in September having been preceded by the singles 'Imperfect' and 'I've Found You' - both excellent introductions to the band's blend of jazz-inspired neo-soul.  Lead vocalist Louise Victoria heads up drummer Mark Whitlam, Dale Hambridge on keys and bassist Chris Jones in an incredibly solid debut project boasted by the glorious tracks, 'Imperfect' and 'Love Review'.

'Slip it Back' by Cantaloop featuring The Haggis Horns
Definitely serving as one of the best singles of the year - the Cantaloop duo of Dannie Sanderson and Justin Metti secured some additional help from the awesome Haggis Horns and have set expectations high for the album we hope is due in 2019.  Remixes of the single come courtesy of Rhythmic Groove and Tek Gremlin but Sam Redmore's deserves particular attention.

Dala Records
Such an exceptional year for the Brooklyn-based record label who were able to boast numerous successes with their single releases in 2018: Camellia Hartman continued to build on her northern soul inspired take on soul music (which finds itself perfectly at home on Dala Records), aligning with The Soulful Saints and delivering the excellent 'Return The Favor'; the vocal duo Mel & Kim scored a real gem with their protest anthem 'Bad Man', and label founder Billy Aukstik unveiled his epic 'Stay Strong' EP under his own moniker, Billy The Kid.
We'd also love to make mention of Billy's contribution to our very own GetToKnow... radio show that featured a rummage through the Dala catalogue, as well as our exclusive one-to-one feature on Aukstik and his stunning hub of creativity.

'The Putbacks' by The Putbacks [HopeStreet Recordings]
It was four years ago, in 2014, that the band paired up with the incredibly gifted vocalist, Emma Donovan, for their match-made-in-heaven collaboration, 'Dawn'.  Their distinctive and unique interpretation of soul music masterfully fused elements of country, rock, blues and gospel, and still stands tall amongst any contemporary soul release you could compare it against.  Now in 2018, The Putbacks look to take that sound to the next stage of its evolution with their self-titled project that the band themselves describe on their Bandcamp page as "crunchy post-soul post-jazz mystery-cinema instrumentals".  Throw in a dose of "psychedelic funk" into the mix and it all results in a fairly apt description of this stunning new album.

'ILL DOOTS' by ILL DOOTS [Ropeadope Records]
"ILL DOOTS is a group of individuals with different perspectives, from different places who want nothing more than to make good music with no rules."  As outlined on the band's Bandcamp page, this is the bold mission statement for ILL DOOTS' approach to their multi genre-encompassing sound.  Showcasing elements of hip-hop, soul and funk, this Philadelphia-based band ingeniously fuse these joyous musical styles and repackage them as something that's quite frankly exceptional, and something that's distinctly... ILL DOOTS!

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