funk

The Peterson Brothers: “Family”

We here at KUTX have kept a pulse on the local scene long and close enough to realize that we’re essentially tracking the progression of individual talents in real time. And though we’re admittedly quick to stick up for twenty-somethings who’ve bottled lightning for their debut releases, frankly there are very few youngsters that genuinely make us think “oh, they’re only gonna get better and better from here on out” each time we see them play live.

Think about The Peterson Brothers, who initially entertained us almost a full decade back when they made their first Studio 1A appearance as mere teens. Just as they did back then, Glenn, Jr. and Alex both continue to slay it on vocals, but their deft instrumentation on guitar and bass, respectively, always steals the show. Which totally tracks, considering up until 2020’s The Intro, The Peterson Brothers were primarily a live staple. So just when we began to fear that their mature emulsifications of blues, funk, soul, and jazz might’ve hit a limit, The Peterson Brothers have bested themselves yet again with their full-length Experience, out April 12th.

And since The Peterson Brothers have already shared a stage with The Roots, who better to help translate their live energy to the studio than Grammy-nominated Roots/Lauryn Hill/Mark Ronson producer Ray Angry? Mixed for ATMOS and mastered at Abbey Road Studios, the resulting Experience is exactly what it claims to be, an eight-track sonic excursion best enjoyed in surround sound. So while mid-January’s “Too Soon” teased that hyper-polished production value with echoes of The Brothers Johnson, yesterday’s “Family” sounds more like The Whispers rejuvenated their signature synth sound with organic sonics and some playful brass. It’s an embrace of everyone who’s supported them along the way, blood relations be damned, and holy moly does it make us feel like Experience will be TPB’s alma mater…at least until the next one.

Silver Skylarks: “Power Moves” (feat. Adrian Quesada & US!)

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: we’ve been loving the recent ride of this retro soul-funk renaissance, especially with so much dynamite coming right out of the central state area. And today a new name emerges within that ongoing saga of nostalgia: Silver Skylarks.

Fly like the birds, and slick like the cars, Silver Skylarks is the DFW duo comprised of songwriter Danny Balis and producer Jeff “Skin” Wade, born from early pandemic demos. Taking cues from the ’70s vinyl rarities that crate diggers crave, Balis and Wade have been steadily elevating those ten demos into Silver Skylarks’ debut LP The Number One Set and Sound – out May 3rd.

But the pair didn’t go it alone. Instead they called up some of the best session players they’ve met, plus a few superstars to really spice things up. On top of the mix that includes Large Professor, Robert Ellis, and The D.O.C., Silver Skylarks also tapped into some outstanding Austin talent; Uncle Roy & Spice, the Austin vocalists better known as US!, lends their pipes to the record’s Side A closer “Power Moves”, while Adrian Quesada commandeers the six-string. The result is a progressive groove that’d quickly catch Roy Ayers’ ear, complete with horn swells, Coffy-esque vocals, and an intoxicating breakbeat-indulging bridge, that all just scream to be played over some sassy vigilante’s intro credits.

Chief Cleopatra: “December All Year” (Live in Studio 1A)

Apologies in advance to all the Scrooges out there, but the winter holidays are on our doorstep. So if you haven’t already, prepare for in-store speaker systems, radio spots, TV commercials, and hell even carolers to give us our annual fill of festive favorites. And while the Bing Crosbys and Brenda Lees of generations past still pack an iconic charm into this last month, we love that the novelty of “Christmas music” hasn’t negated the creation of holiday-inspired originals from modern artists of all backgrounds, like our February 2022 Artist of the Month Chief Cleopatra.Cleo combines soul, rock, gospel, hip-hop, funk, R&B, and more into a non-genre-denominational sound that perfectly complements this singer’s eccentric and often ornamental sense of fashion. She blew us away at the onset of COVID with her eponymous three-tune debut, and made an even more memorable impact last spring with her Walker Lukens-produced follow-up EP Luna. Chief Cleopatra also wowed us with the wide arrangement on this past March’s “Weekend Warrior”, yet it’s the piece of DSII-produced yuletide joy we found under our tree this morning that reassure us how special this Austin treasure is.So much so that we invited Chief Cleopatra and a backing sextet to cut an extended live edition of December All Year in our very own Studio 1A. A mellow Christmas miracle from its first full-band downbeat through its closing keyboard quote of “Jingle Bells”, Chief Cleopatra makes Mrs. Claus seem more like Ellen Griswold with register-spanning vocals that have us second-guessing if there’s mistletoe above us.

Honey Made: “FYC”

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’re already salivating over all the fixings, dressings, and sauces that await us next week. But if you want something homegrown that’ll slather up your ear drums and keep you full ’til the proverbial turkey gobbles, serve yourself up some Honey Made.

The Austin-based nine-piece started oozing out of the jar at the turn of this past decade, and in 2020 alone put out not just their debut EP Couple Few but also their first full-length Brand New. Now, as with any horn-heavy stage-filling ensemble, Honey Made is best enjoyed in a live setting, so we can’t really blame them for taking their time in terms of subsequent studio releases. That said, this Friday Honey Made unfurls their sophomore EP Charge It To The Band Fund.

On top of an edit of last summer’s “Upstairs”, CITTBF totes six new tunes that attest to Honey Made’s impressive perseverance and undying efforts towards shaking rumps and sating the parched. As someone who used to play in a fifteen-piece, I can tell you that the band fund is all-too-real, and honestly a better bet for pooling towards the next big thing. So chip in as much as you can at the Charge It To The Band Fund EP release show 10PM Saturday night at the Skylark Lounge with openers The Reverent Few at 8PM. And if you want to get some mileage out of your stank face before settling in with your relatives, loved ones, or whomever you share Thanksgiving with, turn the volume all the way up, plow onto your couch, and get kickin’ with “FYC”. Whether or not you take your shoes off is up to you…

Yung Bae: “Awesome Ways” (feat. Nile Rodgers)

With some genres, as the sound evolves over time, the elder statesman typically stick to their age bracket. But that’s clearly not the case for funk. Yeah, as future funk takes listeners further and further into the electronic realm, the old guard don’t seem to have a problem mixing with the new blood. That brings us to Yung Bae. This prolific L.A.-via-Portland producer first gained momentum a decade back at the height of the vaporwave craze. While Japanese pop culture helped define the first leg of Yung Bae’s sample-heavy discography, since graduating from self-releasing to signing with a major label at the turn of 2020s, he’s adopted a preppy visual aesthetic that really complements a renewed emphasis on classic ‘disco-funk ’70s-’80s formulas underneath ice cold modern synth sonics. And of course, as Yung Bae’s reputation for greatness only grows, his list of collaborators does as well. That’s no secret to anyone who’s skimmed the track list of last March’s Groove Continental: Side A – which finds Yung Bae teaming up with the likes of Jon Batiste, Channel Tres, and more. Well, just like the international chain of hotels from the world of John Wick, Groove Continental: Side B features a rotating door of top-tier craftspeople including Tim Atlas, Mayer Hawthorne, and oh yeah…Nile Rodgers. Yung Bae drops GC:SB tomorrow, ahead of a DJ set 9PM Friday, November 3rd at Superstition. So put some Chic in your weekend with the incredible, generation-spanning chemistry on a future disco-funk anthem whose title almost serves as a spiritual successor to “Good Times”, “Awesome Ways”.

Henry Invisible: “Dance Music Saves” (feat. Bernard Purdie)

For die-hard Steely Dan fans such as myself, the name Bernard Purdie is instantly recognizable; he invented the Purdie shuffle! So for someone that so casually blew the perfectionist minds of Becker and Fagen with his rhythmic genius back in the late ’70s, Bernie’s bar for collaborating is obvious purdy high. Which brings us to Henry Roland. Historically billing himself as Henry + The Invisibles, Roland semi-recently dropped the “backing band” portion of his handle in favor of something that better represents his one-man multi-instrumentalist endeavor, Henry Invisible. On top of his repertoire as a master singer, bassist, guitarist, and Native Instruments extraordinaire, one of Henry Invisible’s biggest assets is his ability to make seamless loops on the fly, a testament to his talents in keeping time and inherent understanding of groove building. Henry’s virtual weekly “Lovestream” kept us affable company at the start of the pandemic, and fortunately for us, those dozens of original jams have been taking shape as fine-polished studio singles. These days, with the mainstream resurgence of house music, we take the “four-to-the-floor” bass drum on the downbeat/hi-hat on the upbeat disco drum beat for granted. But when someone who essentially invented that style enters the studio with a young blood like Roland, all the life and nuance comes bounding back. With Purdie’s presence, “Dance Music Saves” is just that: pure disco-funk music in its fittest form, complete with the classic accouterments like gliding falsetto strings, simplistic lyrics that become hypnotic chants, stank face-inducing slap bass, sexy electric piano chords, and of course, those driving drums. Catch all that and more in person at Henry Invisible’s Friday residency at Meridian, kicking off this weekend.

Tina Piranha: “A Budding Interest in Treason”

The power of lyrical impact can be timeless, but as great as words over melody can be, there’s a whole different appeal to sans-lyrical explorations. For example, when added onto styles like funk or soul, the genre modifier “cinematic” usually tips listeners off to a strictly instrumental experience, where the lack of lyrics not only allows extra space for meditation, but also opens up your imagination to fill in the blanks – be it with visuals, Rod Serling-esque internal monologue, or just abstract emotional reactions to exotic sounds.

A top notch purveyor of such is Austin’s Tina Piranha, whose eight-player appetite chomps out the rarest bits of ’60s soundtracks, Turkish psychedelia, Ethiopian jazz and beyond into accessible, bite-sized soul tracks. Last year Tina Piranha teamed up with Grammy winner Beto Martinez to record and mix the octet’s debut EP Komissar 13, the ultimate horn-heavy score for any wannabe jet-setting G Men with too many jazz cigarettes on hand. This year, in an effort to change up the sonic scenery, Tina Piranha’s joined forces with Quiet Company’s Matt Parmenter, who’s already ushered in four new singles within the past five months.

With that rapid of output, Tina Piranha’s definitely far from having their fill for 2023, so keep your ears peeled on your preferred streaming platform. ‘Til next month’s meal, go ahead and take “A Budding Interest in Treason”. Just don’t let your boss catch you working on your midcentury espionage spec script.

The Runaway Grooms: “Mister Ford”

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, jam bands were all the rage. But now, in an era where song durations hinge on short attention spans or knowledge that shorter tunes simply hit bigger streaming numbers faster, jam bands are actually pretty polarizing. Even more recent innovators like Mars Volta or Godspeed You! Black Emperor have struggled to stay accessible because of lengthy runtimes. We’re so far removed from the long-form improvisation that jazz and rock normalized half a century back, that when a contemporary group can keep on jamming and pack it in on wax, they’ve got a serious leg up.

Take for instance Central Colorado quintet The Runaway Grooms. Sure, TRG’s 2020 debut Tied to the Sun simmers down with a 13-minute epic, but “Tales of Ernest” is really an outlier of their studio output. Instead The Runaway Grooms prove the power of brevity when laying down tracks. In doing so, The Runaway Grooms are able to evoke classic jam acts like The Allman Brothers or The Grateful Dead without sinking into the long song gimmick (looking at you, Phish). That ability to relegate the extended stuff to concerts is no doubt informed by seven national tours, but you don’t need to check their list of stops to experience This Road.

Tomorrow, on the heels of a statewide CO tour, The Runaway Grooms release their third album, This Road. This Road winds over eclectic retro blends in the ilk of Steely Dan and Yes across five originals. And with no genre stoplights in earshot, The Runaway Grooms navigate This Road by opening up the throttle, hitting hard left turns, and at times, coming to an abrupt stop, all while charting a cohesive musical pilgrimage. So if This Road is already giving you wanderlust jitters, rip into the record early with a single that that sounds like Jethro Tull and War had a funky-prog love child in the year between Aqualung and The World Is a Ghetto: “Mister Ford”.

Kool & the Gang: “Let’s Party” (feat. Sha Sha Jones)

Happy Black History Month! You may know that the first observance took place at Kent State in early 1970, back when the civil rights movement was still fresh in memory and the Black Power movement was just ramping up. But did you know that funk pioneers Kool & the Gang dropped their eponymous debut mere weeks before the first Black History Month? It’s a curious cultural crossroad, but also pretty remarkable that they’re both still going strong in 2023. Kool & the Gang are responsible for some of the most recognizable, influential, and enduring soul-funk-R&B hits of the ’70s and ’80s; chances are, regardless of your age, you’ve heard them in some shape or form. The latest generation of the Gang (which includes Robert “Kool” Bell himself and founding drummer “Funky” Brown) makes history once again 8PM this Saturday at ACL Live at the Moody Theater along with opener/KUTX favorite Tameca Jones. And if you don’t think their newer stuff captures the aura of all their best ’80s bops, mingle with rising R&B star Sha Sha Jones on “Let’s Party”. Just don’t come complaining once it overtakes “About Damn Time” in your top played tracks.

Sammy Rae & The Friends: “If It All Goes South”

It’s that rare sliver of the year where the weather is great the whole day through. And for me personally, that’s all the motivation I need to get out and enjoy live music, indoors or out. Even if the venue’s little more than a concrete box, as long as there’s airflow, I’m out there dancing. With that in mind, we’ve got an official recommendation for this weekend.

In just a couple days, some of slickest genres seep together across a seven-piece, courtesy of Sammy Rae & The Friends. Since their 2018 debut EP The Good Life, this septet’s soared under the direction of their eponymous frontwoman, whose daring pipes are impressive as hell to say the least. Sammy Rae & The Friends bring their brand of jazzy-funk-soul to Empire Control Room 10PM this Saturday alongside NC indie pop outfit The Collection as part of a month-and-a-half-long national junket. It’s only the fourth of twenty-plus tour dates, so be sure to show Sammy Rae & The Friends some of that trademark Texas hospitality. Who knows? You may even flip the script on the meridional connotations of The Friends’ latest single (and music video) “If It All Goes South”. One thing’s for sure, you won’t have any trouble memorizing the acapella-and-horn-heavy chorus.

Scone Cash Players: “Cold 40s”

Contemporary curators for some of the best instrumental genres (namely jazz) seem to be fearless when it comes to digital hi-fi production. But thankfully, some of the finest facilitators of the funk-soul sound still prefer the “authentic” old school character of analogue techniques. Amongst them is Hammond organ extraordinaire Adam Scone. Scone and his magic hands made a pretty big name for themselves up in Brooklyn as part of the Daptone Family and The Dap-Kings, which eventually led to his locally-sourced collective Scone Cash Players. Although there was a near-full decade gap between their debut The Mind Blower and 2018’s Blast Furnace!, Scone Cash Players have maintained a retro personality across their discography, like well-preserved remnants of a bygone cocktail party recently unearthed from a time capsule. For their latest LP, Scone’s trek from Brooklyn, NYC to Brooklin, Brazil inspired a jet-setting piece of South American magic – Brooklyn to Brooklin. Brooklyn to Brooklin evokes the likes of Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 for a ten-track instrumental masterpiece that goes down smoother than a caipirinha. But if cachaça’s a little too exotic for your tastes, Scone made the atmosphere-setting album opener plenty accessible for us relatively-uncultured Olde English-guzzling Americans, “Cold 40s”.

Lena Luca: “Rosebuds”

With the exception of so-called “industry plants”, it’s pretty rare for a superstar to hit their biggest stride during their first project. Think about Kenny Rogers with The First Edition, Danny Elfman with Oingo Boingo, or even Beyoncé with Destiny’s Child. Lena Luca had a classical background in oboe performance and music education before relocating to Austin in 2015 and becoming a centerpiece vocalist for art-funk outfit Bourgeois Mystics. That only lasted about a year before Luca jumped ship and launched a new project, a darkpop band in the vain of ’90s industrial post-grunge rock called Elevaded. Well, turns out even that wasn’t enough to scratch Luca’s creative itch.

Right around the start of the pandemic, they re-emerged under their current moniker, introducing Austin to an unapologetically-queer producer-singer-synthesist solo sensation. Disco, funk, R&B, indie, dance, and pop have all been up for grabs in Lena Luca’s upbeat, melody-anchored formulas since 2020, with a 4-track EP on the way. So if you’re checking out Remi Wolf this Sunday at Stubb’s, be sure to stick around ’til after 10 for an official after show performance by Lena Luca. If not, enjoy Lena Luca’s official selection from this year’s Austin Music Video Festival that accompanies one of L.L.’s most rousing bass grooves to date, an expertly-executed disco-funk phenom that gives Dua Lipa a run for her money, “Rosebuds”.

Honey Made: “Upstairs”

Having played trumpet in a band whose membership ranged from around fifteen to twenty, “the more the merrier” approach didn’t really translate to exceptional songwriting. Thankfully that’s not the case for Austin nine-piece Honey Made. The first leg of Honey Made’s career was spent in the “party band” realm, wowing crowds more with enduring arrangements and a rapid-fire series of high-energy solos. But since they’ve internalized some of the lessons imparted on them by producer Steve Berlin (who helped shape Honey Made’s 2020 debut full-length Brand New), Honey Made’s managed to unstick themselves from the “jam band” mindset and embrace a previously-untapped but intrinsic excellence. Now Honey Made strives to refine their funk and soul so much that it’s sweetness gets stuck in your ears for years, instead of just oozing offstage the minute the gig’s over. Honey Made played last Friday at Radio Coffee & Beer and just today released a stinger of a funk-soul single. Between Honey Made’s signature horn stabs, cool choral harmonies, and vocals that give the late Charles Bradley a run for his money, “Upstairs” proves just how little musical real estate Honey Made needs to create a playful, catchy retro-modern masterpiece.

Quentin And The Past Lives: “I Am The Gun”

We’re in the final seven days of Love Austin Music Month and in the home stretch ofATX Gen Next: Adventures in Person, which features this year’s roster fromAustin Music Foundation’s Artist Development Program. Quentin And The Past Lives especially shines among ADP 5’s Class of 2022, thanks in no small part to the canned heat unleashed by The Past Lives’ eponymoustattooed and often half-nude frontman,Quentin Arispe. The group’s got some exciting opportunities coming up, including a SXSW appearance and a Half Time performance for MLR Austin in late May. But before you catch Quentin And The Past Lives in person, trot along to the alt-rock-soul trigger discipline of “I Am The Gun”!

Anastasia Hera & The Heroes: “Like I Am”

Anyone who’s heard Anastasia Hera can tell that she’s a big proponent of Black activism, making her a prime candidate for the spotlight on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This native Austinitecemented her charismatic sense of verbal cadence early on by memorizing King’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech at a young age, andin 2015 Hera founded CAKE, a non-profit that empowers girls and women interested in musical performance. Anastasia Hera & The Heroes shared two new singles as part ofAustin Music Foundation’s Artist Development Program and their 2022 compilation ATX Gen Next: Adventures in Person including a luminous piece of R&B-funk perfect forLove Austin Music Month,”Like I Am”.

OKAMOTOS: “Band Music”

When a group’s been dubbed the Japanese analogue to golden-era Red Hot Chili Peppers, expectations are pretty high. And yet Tokyo-based four-piece OKAMOTO’s manages to live up to that hype and well beyond with a raucous, irreverent brand of punk-funk-rock that gives Freaky Styley a run for its money.

In the same vein as the Ramones, the members of this audacious quartet have adopted each other as informal family members, with a bond that’s gone above and beyond into their ninth LP, KNO WHEREKNO WHERE is an epic, seventeen-song experience best enjoyed in its entirety, but if you can’t clock out to rock out quite yet, you can still hop aboard OKAMOTO’s locomotive energy with “Band Music”!

Cory Henry: “Dreaming”

If you’re a connoisseur of contemporary jazz-soul, then you’re likely already in-the-know about New York’s Cory Henry. This Snarky Puppy veteran multi-instrumentalist-producer-composer shines chiefly on keys and vocals, and invites the classic gospel, funk, and R&B tones of Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, and Marvin Gaye into the realm of “future-soul”.

Cory Henry shared his aptly-titled LP Best of Me last Friday and kicks off a week-long stint at the legendary Blue Note Jazz Club tonight. At just shy of a dozen tracks, the high-level ingenuity of Best of Me puts it in conversation with iconic soul records like InnervisionsFuture Shock, and What’s Going On?, albeit with an inherently modern quality, best exemplified on “Dreaming Of”!

Flyjack: “Can’t Catch Me”

Even with the mass proliferation of digital production trends in the past three decades, there’s something inherently retro about the funk-soul sound. Austin group Flyjack knows this all-too-well, having just released a record named after an airline that bit the dust right when computers were becoming commonplace in the music world.

Pan Am gives you a first class ticket to a full spectrum of soul and funk and presents Flyjack soaring higher than they’ve ever been. Pan Am is out now without any of the restrictions you’d experience on a present-day flight, and today Flyjack’s given us another complementary carry-on, the heist-oriented music video for “Can’t Catch Me”!

Sunshine Boysclub: “Don’t See Why”

In recent memory, L.A. singer-producer Sam Martin’s occupied a singular role at the helm of indie pop outfit Youngblood Hawke. But just within the last couple months, Martin’s embarked on a refreshing solo venture, Sunshine Boysclub. Martin lives up to the expectations of the handle with a summer-ready youthful energy, lathering up classic disco-funk formulas with modern flairs of psych-pop, first heard on “Patience” last month.

In anticipation of Sunshine Boysclub’s debut album this fall, Martin just unleashed his sophomore single (and music video) “Don’t See Why”, a sweat-inducing booty-shaker ideal for a vacation, workout, or commute playlist!

John Splithoff: “WGYG”

Born and raised just outside of Chicago, singer-guitarist John Splithoff caught a lot of the soul, R&B, jazz, funk, and pop that blew over from the Windy City, and he’s kept those tones close at hand ever since. Splithoff’s been supplying us with singles dating back to his 2013 independently-released EP but after nearly a full decade, the songwriter’s understandably wanted something a bit more filling to sate his artistic appetite.

Well you can go ahead and gesture “ante up” all you want, but you’ll still have to wait ’til tomorrow to unlock John Splithoff’s debut LP, All In, in its entirety. True to its name, this inaugural full-length gives you an unfettered examination of John Splithoff, whose slick chord progressions and masterful vocal performances wrap up the moody-yet-upbeat record, and will keep your foot tapping with standouts like “WGYG”!