THE BAMBOOS: Side Stepper (Label: Tru Thoughts)

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THE BAMBOOS: Side Stepper

The Bamboos are Australia’s premier contemporary funk band. Their first two albums were rightly acclaimed as this new century’s best take on the art form that had been bought to near-perfection by people like James Brown, Dyke and the Blazers and various aggregations of Memphis musicians. For their third LP, these new wizards of Oz wisely widen their palette and introduce some more obviously soulful shadings. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of the band’s signature, blistering funk – like the organ-led take on ‘Funky Buttercup’ and the bass-heavy, Stax-brassy ‘One Man Entourage’. As funky is ‘Tears Cried’. Featuring a smouldering vocal from Kylie Auldist, if someone told you it had been cut at that famous old cinema on East McLemore, you wouldn’t argue. Ms. A also takes lead on ‘Now That You Are Mine’ a pacey, perfect Northern soul confection and ‘Make It Real’ – a mid-tempo floater that one moment reminds me of ’60s Chicago and the next, Tower of Power. The album’s other big vocal cuts are a little more unusual. First there’s a remarkable version of the Kings Of Leon’s ‘King Of The Rodeo’. It’s sparse and funky with a nailed vocal from Megan Washington. Then there’s a slow and dramatic ‘Move On’ featuring Paul McInnes while TY takes centre stage for the hip-hop flavoured ‘Can’t Help Myself’. That leaves ‘Nightsport -‘ as authentic a Northern soul instrumental as you’ll ever hear; an almost drum and bass take on the Winstons’ ‘Amen Brother’; and the album’s title cut – which is a wonderful piece of flute-led soul-jazz that will recall the mastery of Herbie Mann. Indeed, throughout – as I’ve indicated – you be reminded of umpteen past masters and numerous different soul and funk stylings, but, importantly, the Bamboos give it all a contemporary edge and create their own delicious, unique brew.
(BB) 4/5