As I sit here, pondering what ponderers usually ponder and listening to the radio in a rare moment of non-CD music enjoyment, I have discovered something really cool: soul music is coming back. Now, you might say to yourself, “That Nerd’s crazy. Soul music never left.” and you’d be right. But, it did vanish for a long time as rap, techno and other forms of synthesized dance music took over.
Over the past few years, however, there has been quite a renaissance of what can only be called The Funk.
I first felt soul was coming back when I heard Joss Stone’s first album. To hear a British teenager sing with such soul made me feel there was something bubbling underground I hadn’t heard about yet. That soul queen Betty Wright produced Stone’s album – that she would even be given a chance to do that for an artist on a major label – made the feeling intensify. Of course, there is a big Northern soul movement in the UK – Northern meaning US-based soul stars, usually obscure at that – but there has been a Northern soul scene in Britain since the early ’70’s so I knew that wasn’t it.
After the success of Stone came a lot of career resurrections for various soul heavyweights of the past: Wright as a hit producer, Al Green reunited with Willie Mitchell for two great CDs, Solomon Burke put out a marvelous CD on Anti produced by T-Bopne Burnett, Bettye Lavette put out two great CDs, the late Eddie Hinton has been rediscovered, obscure soul titan Howard Tate was found and has had albums put out, Soul group Black Merda has been making great new music, Don Covay released a fine disc and many more. All this has happened since the turn of the millenium.
New artists have been plying the soul trade as well, aiming for Sam Cooke most of the time. Earl Thomas, James Hunter, Ellis Hooks have all been cast as Cooke-alikes – aiming for the suaveness and retor sounds Cooke made famous.
There have also been a plethora of archive releases from new labels specializing in vintage soul. Labels like The Numero Group, Ubiquity, Light In The Attic and many others. Rappers have even gotten into the soul game including Madlib with his Stone’s Throw label, specializing in modern variations of classic soul grooves. Not to mention the blogs and websites galore dedicated to the music.
It seems a new day is dawning in the world of soul and I couldn’t be happier about it. Once again music with heart, soul and meaning is rising to the forefront and I couldn’t be happier.
And as usual, you’ll be reading about the best of it in my blog.
How is your soul?
The Music Nerd knows…..