Friday 31 January 2020

'Omotola' by Head for the Hills

Color Red's propensity for releasing stunning music from innovative funk and soul bands many of which, but not restricted to, Denver, Colorado has seen their stock continue to rise with awesome projects from Matador! Soul Sounds, ATOMGA and The New Mastersounds.  The label - the brainchild of Mike Tallman and Eddie Roberts (The New Mastersounds) - has become a hub of creativity and collaboration which is an ethos perfectly encapsulated by the new single from bluegrass collective, Head for the Hills.

Since their debut in 2007 with 'Robbers Roost', Head for the Hills have gone on to release a further five projects with a mix of full-lengths, EPs and live sets as well as having become staples on the US festival circuit.  While heralded as a bluegrass collective, their music has often dabbled with other genres with subtle dalliances into jazz and soul, and work with a variety of vocalists and musicians.  Head for the Hills stepping into the Color Red studios with Mike Tallman is a fascinating prospect enough but there's further intrigue to be found from the story within the story...

'Omotola' actually draws unique inspiration from the music and works of revered Nigerian musician and Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti, and his Kalakuta Republic compound.  The communal compound was renown for housing Kuti, his family, band members and his recording studio, and was considered something of a safe haven away from Nigeria's dictatorial leadership.  Omotola Osaeti had resided at the compound amongst nearly thirty women - who would later go on to become known as The Afrobeat Queens - many of whom were dancers, singers and composers for Kuti's Africa 70 band and helped to elevate the genre into what it is today.  Through 'Omotola', Head for the Hills strive to celebrate not only Fela Kuti's musical legacy but the Queens' role in helping to shape Afrobeat's ideology and aesthetic and to further celebrate, in part, their largely unsung contributions.

This inspirational "Bluegrass meets Afrobeat" composition sees eclectic and compelling interplay from violinist Joe Lessard, Sam Armstrong-Zickefoose's banjo and Troy Thill on baritone saxophone who really pull you into the dynamicism of 'Omotola' and its shared universe, but all the performers play their part masterfully including Adam Kinghorn (guitar), Matt Loewen (double bass), Todd Livingston (guitar) and Riley Williams (drums).

Color Red's continual exploration into contemporary funk and soul's parameters has resulted in a genuinely ground-breaking collaboration with Head for the Hills with 'Omotola' progressively taking the genre towards a bold new direction while celebrating the paths that led there.

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