Friday, 23 March 2018 13:51 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altFans of the "concept album" will be glad to know that the "concept" is still alive and really rather well. Earlier this year we enjoyed the saga of star crossed lovers in Sir Wick's 'A Tale Of Two Fools' and hot on the heels of those fools comes another "connected" set, 'Blacksuite' from FRANK SIMMONS III.

Detroiter, Frank or "Frankie" started his musical odyssey at a tender age playing piano and organ in church. Then he studied Music Theory at Marygrove College before venturing out into Detroit's vibrant music scene. He worked with, amongst others, jazz trumpeter Lin Rountree and eventually formed Late Nights Early Mornings band (LNEM). That band were soul based; then in 2015 he released his own album 'The Chocolate Noise Affect' that fused the soul and R&B he'd been playing with his jazz roots.

Frank's new 'Backsuite' album follows the same sonic template – soul, R&B and jazz and helping him deliver is old sparring partner Lin Rountree and a whole team of singers. Most noted is possibly Conya Doss. She fronts the dreamy, neo-soul ballad 'Language Of Love' And therein lies the clue to the album's theme. 'Blacksuite' is a 15 track paean to love..... not just sensual, romantic love but love and respect for each other irrespective of creed, colour, belief or inclinations.

Sonically the music reflects the theme. There's nothing here that's frantic or upbeat; the format is decidedly Quiet Storm with just a hint of blaxploitation balladeering. In places there are spoken word pieces like 'Say Love' which features Cyrus Aaron and there is occasional low key rapping, best exemplified on the cut, 'Tracey's Lullaby' which is a throwback to those great Guru solo albums.

FRANK SIMMONS III. 'Blacksuite' is out now.



Friday, 23 March 2018 13:48 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

alt'Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium!' is the intriguing new album from off the wall Chicago band THE CLAUDETTES. They are: Johnny Iguana (piano), bassist/singer Zach Verdoorn drummer Matt Torre and vocalist Berit Ulseth and the foursome steadfastly refuse to categorise their music.... if pushed they might say "Brother Ray meets the Ramones"! Though on 'Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium!' you might also detect vaudeville, punk, blues and '60s soul influences.

In fairness the soul servings are not soul as we know it but for music adventurers 'Bill Played The Saxophone' and 'November' are interesting attempts to marry the classic girl group sound of the Brill Building era with Phil Spector's Wall Of Sound'.

THE CLAUDETTES. 'Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium!' is out now on Yellow Dog Records.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 March 2018 13:56



Thursday, 22 March 2018 18:24 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altAny band that shares its name with an Erykah Badu album can't be all bad and as we discovered when blue-eyed soulsters MAMAS GUN debuted back in 2009 they were really rather good. Their album 'Routes To Riches' contained all kinds of gems – none more sparkling that the gorgeous ballad 'Pots Of Gold'. On it, main man, Andy Platts channelled a wonderful classic soul falsetto and the tune remains a soft soul classic.

Since then, we've followed the band's progress with real interest and are delighted to learn that guys are releasing a new long player on May 18th. The album's called 'Golden Days' and previews reveal that the ten tracker is a real corker! That soulful quality is apparent on the new single – just out as a taster. The cut is a wonderful 'You Make The World A Better Place'... gentle and persuasive with another convincing vocal from Platts.

To tie in with the album release Mama's Gun have also announced a four date UK tour. The itinerary is.....

June 21 | The Jam House, Birmingham

June 22 | Deaf Institute, Manchester

June 28 | Rialto Theatre, Birmingham

June 29 | Omeara, London

(full details from the venues, of course)

Full review of Mamas Gun's 'Golden Days' and a band interview here @ SJF very soon.


Last Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2018 18:35



Wednesday, 21 March 2018 21:01 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altKATE USHER and the STURDY SOULS is a blue-eyed soul/pop combo who work in and around New York state. The band is led by smoky voiced singer Kate Usher and multi-instrumentalist, Kevin Angiulo. The band channel a summery vibe – maybe encouraged by their summer residency at upmarket Hamptons venue, the Surf Lodge.

Right now the band are promoting the single 'Halfway' –a catchy, acoustic flavour that builds as the sax kicks in. There's a whiff of Norah Jones about it. Kate says: "Halfway is about that feeling of travelling through life without any bearing on how far away you are from the destination, in search of happiness guided by what you feel rather than what you see."

'Halfway' is the first cut from the group's upcoming EP 'Circles' which is due in May. Previews reveal that the title cut, we think, is stronger than 'Halfway'. 'Circles' (the track, that is) is right on the current smooth-soul vibe that Lindsey Webster has managed to perfect. Elsewhere, the jaunty 'Tiny Boat' is classic sunshine pop that'll transport you back to the 60s and band like the Lovin' Spoonful.


Find out more @

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2018 21:09



Monday, 19 March 2018 18:56 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altFUNK DIVISION are a hard-gigging soul band from Birmingham (West Midlands UK that is). When we last heard 'em – back in 2016 – they were a trio promoting a great tune, 'Tell Me Something'.

Now the band (who were called Sound Garden till 2014) has slimmed down to a duo – Mark Anthony Dufus and Derek King – and the pair are busy with their latest single – 'If You Were Mine'. The track comes in three mixes – "Disco", "House" and "Soul" and each mix sounds exactly as described. Odd though, given the band's name, we don't have a "funk" mix! It won't surprise you to learn that the "Soul" mix is the one that hits home here at SJF. It's a steady, tight modern soul groove with convincing vocals; it's very insistent too ... bit of an earworm!

Find out more@

Last Updated on Monday, 19 March 2018 19:00


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