Tag Archives: soul

Stand United for Great Divide

29 Jul

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Ok Music Court community, I have a serious question. Why does the following video have fewer than 9,000 views?

Does anyone else see this as a major issue? I think it might be a travesty, a horrendous injustice that needs some musical absolution. What’s the best way to apologize? Listen, of course. And, because I know you won’t be able to listen to the song only once, listen a few more times. Great Divide, a modern soul band out of Chicago, transforms soul music with “Moorie,” an untraditional Gospel piece that doesn’t fit neatly into the Stax or Motown mold, but instead paves its own silky smooth path in soul. The song can best be described as a 21st century hymn, a “Glory”-like piece in the mold of John Legend, but with more of a rock edge. Let’s do a full analysis of the song.

Josh Teitelbaum lays down a snap-inducing drum beat to sit neatly behind Jeff Leibovich’s polished piano riff. This combination creates an immediate fluidity to the piece, one that is aided by the array of carefully arranged vocals that start in full chorus. Teddy Grossman leads the euphonious mix of vocalists and he is aided by other band members and a choir (Vernard Burton, Zita Smith, Carya Holmes, & Martin Woods). Grossman’s voice has an easy potency; it commands the song but does so democratically, never overtaking any other vocalist, but instead driving the song forward with a buoyant tranquility. The verse features a soft bass and guitar, played by Josh Kahle and Jeff Burke respectively, that is analogous to lemonade on a summery afternoon. The song continues in this vein, and then, in case you didn’t have enough, Great Divide adds a booming 4-piece horn section that adds even more of the soul element.

My favorite part of the song is the combined vocal. That Gospel-like amalgamation of voices is both delicate and strong. All in all, “Moorie” should have many, many more listens and views, and thus get to doing just that everyone.

Follow the band on Twitter and Facebook.

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Top 10 Songs of 2015 – #3: “Coming Home” by Leon Bridges

24 Dec

Leon Bridges

Here is an immediate fun fact about Leon Bridges. He is not Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, or Marvin Gaye. He is, however, young enough to be any of those singers’ grandsons. That’s surprising isn’t it, especially after you listen to the following:

Let me repeat my earlier statement: Bridges is not one of those seminal soul artists; that said, he is doing his best to assure that the legacy of these individuals is not spoiled. I am going to make a proclamation; it’s bold, I’m just giving you bold morning. If Bridges had been his age in 1965, we would be talking about him in the same breath as the singers I mentioned earlier. Bold, yes. Reckless, no. Bridges is already a consummate musician and performer; he is deft and adroit, a passionate performer and baby-face smooth singer. Bridges is tremendous in every sense of the term. If he represents the future of music, music is in good hands.

For an “oldies” music lover like me who adores both Motown and STAX records, Bridges is refreshing. He is a chip off the old block. He is what music should be, what it should sound like. And the fact that Bridges’ song “Coming Home” was a Top 10 Most Viral Track on Spotfy that is a good sign for the direction of music. His debut album of the same name as the title track hit #6 on the charts depicting an insatiable urge of individuals for pure, old-fashioned, unadulterated music. There are no special effects here. It is Bridges, a keyboard, two guitars (one of bass variety), and some drums. The formula for great music is not complicated. When I wrote about this song some time ago, I also had some flattering comments about the song, which I will share below.

“Coming Home” immediately takes on the feel of “You Send Me” with tastes of “A Change is Gonna Come,” and Bridges soft croon, a smoother Hozier (to make a modern comparison), has a rich Gospel feel to it that is just the right kind of sweet, not mawkish and not overpowering – it’s a voice that you can sink into, like silky gelato. The song itself is classic early Motown. It is carried by a bluesy piano and guitar mixed with traditional percussion. It is not difficult to imagine Sam Cooke or Otis Redding singing this song, and Bridges’ voice is not really a step down; heck, I am almost willing to go so far to exclaim that Bridges parallels the singers in a sense. Not too shabby.”

Bridging Ears Back to Soul

24 May

Leon Bridges

When I first heard Leon Bridges my immediate reaction was that Sam Cooke had come back from the dead. I’m serious. The black-and-white soul sound sent me back to that magical moment when I first explored the inception of Soul music: the early 1960s sounds of names like Cooke, Wilson, and King. Then, I shook myself out of this initial daze. Sam Cooke – A man widely regarded as one of the finest vocalists of all time!?! How could I make such a wild comparison? But, as I took more time to listen to some tracks off Bridges’ soon-to-be-released debut album Coming Home, I realized that the comparison, while lofty, was not ridiculous. Bridges’ voice “sends me” to the soul-saturated sounds of the early 60s, and, while it may not in full bring back the mainstream popularity of slow horns and vocal harmonies, the music is certainly bridging that sounds to the ears of soul ingénues.

Bridges, who was born in Atlanta and now resides in Fort Worth, reached viral success with his song “Coming Home,” which caught the ears of several and helped him secure a record deal with Columbia Records. The overflowing bucket of talent that Bridges exuded did not stay hidden for long. With the help of Austin Jenkins and Joshua Block from White Denim, Bridges recorded his first few tracks – employing the aid of vocalists and bands that helped complement the 60s sound. His renown and success will only skyrocket with his release in June.

Coming Home” immediately takes on the feel of “You Send Me” with tastes of “A Change is Gonna Come,” and Bridges soft croon, a smoother Hozier (to make a modern comparison), has a rich Gospel feel to it that is just the right kind of sweet, not mawkish and not overpowering – it’s a voice that you can sink into, like silky gelato. The song itself is classic early Motown. It is carried by a bluesy piano and guitar mixed with traditional percussion. It is not difficult to imagine Sam Cooke or Otis Redding singing this song, and Bridges’ voice is not really a step down; heck, I am almost willing to go so far to exclaim that Bridges parallels the singers in a sense. Not too shabby.

From the slower “Coming Home” to the early Marvin Gaye-esque “Better Man.” The song features a literal doo-wop backdrop that is combined with a sweet horn section. It is almost minimalistic in its approach, and perhaps that is what I like so much about Bridges and his throwback tunes. In a musical world dominated by heavy electronics where artist after artist attempts to impress with eclectic sounds and instrumentation, Bridges takes a more traditional approach, fitting a wonderful track into a little more than two minutes.

Bridges is an artist worth tracking. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or his Website.

Top 10 Songs of 2014 – #3: “Take Me To Church” by Hozier

9 Dec

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I’m going to go out on a limb and proclaim that Hozier had the best year of any Irish musician. That’s not a big limb to go out on though because Hozier has transcended the realms of internet popularity and has entered into the homes of a diverse range of music lovers. His sweet croon, lugubrious lyric, and rough-around-the-edges tint creates an aura of pious music with a hint of melancholy and malevolence. In that, Hozier creates an almost mystical persona that is all the more attractive to his listeners.

Hozier released debut EP Take Me To Church with the eponymous title track in tow back in 2013, but, like one other song on the countdown, I am taking into account when the song jumped in popularity, and that was during 2014. Since then, Hozier has performed on Saturday Night Live and is currently on an international tour with a slew of sold-out dates. The song and its singer have taken off into the stratosphere of music, and Hozier is well deserving of the accolades he has received.

Usually I avoid songs with 40 million YouTube views, but Hozier’s piece “Take Me To Church” is popular for good reason. His sultry vocal carries over drawn-out keys like a dirge. The song carries a dark overtone; Hozier knows the song is downcast and he is proud of it. This leads to Hozier’s unmistakeable chants of “amen,” which is untraditional in a pop song, but carries with sardonicism that is refreshing. It is almost anthemic in its darkness, and that is impressive. Excellent song that is a great #3 on the list!

Check out Hozier’s Website, Facebook, and Twitter

Bhi Bhiman Can Make Any Music Lover Go Crazy (in a good way)

17 Apr

Bhi Bhi "is the" man

The English lexicon is immense. When I write reviews of artists I try to enlarge my discourse in a manner that is not grandiloquent. I hate repetition in adjectives and verbs, and I love experimenting with language. Yes this makes me a word nerd (a werd), but I embrace the title. The reason I begin this new artist profile with a statement on language is because I want to introduce you all to a great word related to the artist I am profiling. It is elysium. You can swap it out with Shangri-la, Zion, Canaan, Utopia, or, simply, Heaven. Let’s say your wandering around this network we like to call the internet and you come across a taste of elysium. Well, damn, you want to share whatever it is like wildfire (or perhaps keep it all to yourself – but I learned early that sharing is caring so here you all go). The little taste of music heaven is a Sri-Lankan-American folk/blues artist named Bhi Bhiman. And Mr. Bhiman can do this.

A lot of reality television shows – specifically one that has the creator of the piece as a judge – looks for the “Voice.” So what characterizes a voice? I think that the first necessity is for it to stop you in your tracks. You can be going a mile a minute trying to complete 20 different tasks, but, for at least the first time you listen to it, the voice forces you to drop what you are doing and just listen. It is quite heavenly in its relaxation properties. Consider it like a hegira. The “voice” contains a super-rich fullness that is whole and striking. It is clear and booming. The “voice” is very difficult to come by (only some truly have it). Good news for all of you. Bhi Bhiman has the “voice.”

Listen to the power. Listen to the vebratto. Listen to the soul. I am not overexaggerating the point. Bhiman takes “Crazy” and literally destroys the song. He picks it apart (similar to how Cee Lo sings it) and destroys its contents to the point that you don’t even hear the lyric anymore, you just hear him.

Okay, you are all saying. Sure. He can cover a great song. But this is Cee Lo. What about his original stuff? How does his voice work when you get him to perform some of his own songs? I’ve got some more good news.

Bhiman’s solo material is like what would happen if you combined the folky goodness of a David Bromberg/Tim Buckley with the southern soul of Otis Redding and then mixed in some good ol’fashioned early blues. Put all of that in a blender and turn the blender on puree. Ta Dah. Bhi Bhiman. His songs range from a humorous folk originality to sagacious note-shattering fosoblu (folk/soul/blues). Let’s start with the former.

Kimchee (kimchi) is a Korean fermented vegetable dish and Bhiman in “Kimchee Line” takes a pretty tradition blues riff and, well, sings about kimchi as if it is a vegetable train (sort of).

“Well I went up on the mountain
To see if I could fly
Went down to the sea, lord
And the sea was dry
So I picked a pickled pepper
From the Leader’s Tree
I got some prawn and oysters
For the Vitamin E

I’m on the kimchee line
Its radish time”

It is cheeky humor, a funny mix of traditional blues and a true eat your vegetables message. Bhiman is efficient on the acoustic guitar, lightly plucking the rhythm that guides the song. His voice clearly shines (like it does in all of his songs) and, don’t forget, it’s “cucumber time”

Included here is the full version of “Guttersnipe,” loaded with the excellent bass of Ben Tudor, moving percussion of Gabe Turow, and effective key-work by Sam Kassirer. The itenerant song features a simple chord progression that helps accentuate Bhiman’s croon. A guttersnipe is a street urchin (which Bhiman pays ode to in the song). The chorus of the song is just Bhiman demonstrating his fantastic chops to the listener. His drop down from his vocal limits back to his comfort zone is so difficult and done to such perfection. At around 4:15 the song darkens and you feel for the poor guttersnipe that Bhiman sings of. You feel the song and that is incredibly important to success. Bhiman is a modern troubador, a true “voice,” and one that you should keep an eye on for this point on.

Tour Dates:

Thursday 4/19 – Bowery Ballroom – New York City
Show @ 9PM sharp

Friday 5/4 – Oberlin Folk Festival – Oberlin, OH

Saturday 5/5 – Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
Show @ 8:30PM

Saturday 6/9 – The Independent – San Francisco, CA
Show @ 8PM

Sunday 6/17 – Clearwater Festival – Hudson, NY

More Information About Bhi:

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