The Haggis Horns are one of UK soul’s best kept secrets… though maybe that’s not quite true since I’m sure most proper soul fans will have some knowledge of the band, if only indirectly, and – sadly – because they’ll know of the 2008 death of founding member Jason Rae. The Horns began life in Scotland – now there’s a surprise! – and after a trio of successful singles they released their debut album – ‘Hot Damn!’ – in 2007. The album was stuffed with their distinctive brand of brass-heavy funk and soul and the outfit’s classic funk influences were patently obvious causing one critic to dub their sound “Average White Band meets Tower Of Power”. Since then they’ve worked with the likes of Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse, Jamirioquai, Corinne Bailey Rae, Roots Manuva, Lou Donaldson, Estelle, Keb Darge and many more – hence my comment about knowing about them indirectly.
‘Keep On Movin’ is the Haggis’ latest offering and like their debut it’s dominated by their trademark brass-fuelled funk. ‘The Jerk’, ‘The Snarf Dance’ and ‘Putting On The Beef’ are great examples of that unrelenting sound and from the tunes’ titles it also apparent that the outfit don’t take themselves too seriously. Musically, though, it’s another matter. Their funk is tight and disciplined and like James Brown they know that without that discipline the funk won’t flow. ‘The Cockroach Grind’ is the tune that maybe owes most to the Godfather and his prescription for the funk. The opening – indeed the whole backing track – could be prime time JBs but vocally they avoid the obvious and go for a subtler, lighter touch from Nia Saw … and it works.
Ms. Saw adds her distinctive tones to four other cuts with the most attractive being ‘On The Edge.’ This one is the album’s least frantic cut. It’s a gentle, airy, mid-paced item with punchy brass stabs that have just a feel of ‘Am I The Same Girl’ while Nia’s approach here is reminiscent of Corinne Bailey Rae – not surprising given the band’s connection with the Rae family. The album’s other non-in-your-face-funk-feature is the closer ”Love Gets You High’. Here the feel is Donald Byrd meets the Mizell Brothers with a touch of Tania Maria thrown in for good measure. It’s a lovely little tune dominated by Atholl Ransome’s flute and offers some counterpoint to the dominance of the funk throughout.