Heavy, heavy funk & sweet, sweet soul

Funkalicious: Friday 5th December


From hard driving dance floor funk, uplifting soul and with explosive latin, breakbeats and old school hip-hop on the side – the Funkalicious party continues to bring the good groove to the people on the good foot. Join Djs Philster & Mr Higgs as we deliver another payload of dance floor dynamite.

Friday 5th December
The White Horse
94 Brixton Hill
9pm-3am FREE!

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Review: Emma Donovan & The PutBacks – Dawn


Upon hearing “Dawn” for the first time, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was the fourth, or fifth album from Emma Donovan & The PutBacks, so seasoned is the sound – and so harmonious is the pairing of the considerable vocal talents of Donovan, with Melbourne funk soul instrumentalists, The PutBacks. While it is apparent that all involved are experienced in their own right, the synergy on their coming together for this, their debut, makes the quality of their sound all the more impressive.

Recorded in a single room for the instruments and a separate vocal booth, The PutBacks play a solid, unfussy, studied groove that is as clean as it is raw, funky, bluesy, cinematic, airy. Donovan’s voice is authoritative yet friendly, gritty, versatile, warm and honest, full of texture and character. Each listen led me to study, listen out more for the detailed intonation and inflection of her voice. It’s certainly an album you listen to intently rather than background music – and the quality of Donovan’s voice is good enough reason to keep returning to this set again and again. In addition, the excellent backing from The PutBacks add punch when required to match her rousing vocal. At other times, they deftly step out of her way so her voice can shine. There is such fine balance to the weight of music versus voice. You’d really only have to wait for the first few bars of this album for it to start to soar. Both the music and Donovan’s voice flex some considerable prowess, yet it is all presented and produced so tastefully and so beautifully timed.

Comprising entirely of original material, with soulful stories of life, loss, ups, downs, reality and redemption, every track here sounds wonderfully classic. A particular highlight of the set, the title track “Dawn”, sounds like a “Fresh” period Sly, musically – sung with such beautiful sweetness and showing Donovan’s considerable control of range. Another highlight “Keep Me In Your Reach” starts out already high in the stratosphere and then somehow builds further into a place I could only best describe as something akin to Mavis Staples sparring with The M.G.’s – truly wonderful stuff – and when it ends it is somehow matched in brilliance by “Come Back To Me”. This soaring build of energy clearly a strength of this outfit as they work together to build a high. The punchy “Black Woman” bursts out of a serious strut; “Voodoo” is a straight-up Curtis style groove with a terrific organ line; first single “Daddy” is a super hip slice of cinematic cool; while the closing “Over Under Away” is a magically timed, percussive groove where everything interlocks so finely, the vocal floating superbly atop, it all finishes so abruptly, yet perfectly, satisfactorily. Each track is handled in a very different style from the last, yet it all segues so wonderfully together. Feisty funk meets Sunday soul, meets urban soul cinema, bluesy ballads and a healthy dose of road trip rock influences. In fact this album would serve very well indeed as a road trip sound track.

A truly remarkable album from Emma Donovan & The PutBacks, and instantly classic from the start to finish. Easily one of the best soul records you will hear this year and timeless enough to sit proudly in your collection for decades to come. Its performance and production show considerable flair, timing and humanity – and indeed another score for Melbourne’s Hope Street Recordings. More of this, please! Time to listen to that title track one more time.

Download the first single, “Daddy” for free here:


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Funkalicious: Friday 7th November


Bringing you the best in heavyweight funk and raw soul with a pinch of latin, reggae and breaks.

Friday 7th November
The White Horse
94 Brixton Hill
9pm-3am FREE!

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45: Smith & The Honey Badgers – The Honey Badger Strut


The Honey badger is a curious animal. Its apparent fearlessness means it quite often gets into some pretty serious scrapes as it takes on all types of dangerous situations in order to grab a meal. There’s a pretty hilarious YouTube video here if you haven’t seen it already.

With a name and first single inspired by this tough little beast, London band Smith & The Honey Badgers are taking a no-mess approach to funk and soul too – lots of gusto and a great sound that’s really together. Catch them live on Friday 17th October at the New Cross Inn and grab a copy of the single before it inevitably sells out, at their Bandcamp site:


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Review: Jungle Fire – Tropicoso


Mongo Santamaria, Joe Bataan, Mandrill, Nico Gomez – just some of the great names to blend latin, afro and funk into an explosive cocktail. With far reaching influences from Colombia, to Nigeria and even Belgium (in the case of Gomez). Some of the most potent afro latin funk was of course heated in the melting pot of the USA. In New York, Fania was the king of Spanish Harlem and there was a killer Chicano scene in California too, producing exotic fusions of rock with bands like El Chicano and Santana, of course. So it is no great surprise that a new strain of fusion would now come out of Los Angles, the stomping ground of Jungle Fire.

Members of Jungle Fire have previously played in Breakestra, Orgone, Ozamatli and The Lions to name but a few of the contemporary acts on the Los Angeles funk soul scene. You could say a common theme that runs between all of those fine bands, is a sound that has firm roots in the 60s and 70s but with a very modern update. Jungle Fire’s take is faithfully authentic but perhaps the secret of their particular blend is a definite post hip-hop b-boy sensibility. After all, “Apache” is still very much a definitive b-boy anthem and a strong dance floor winner. So it is the clubs as well as the block parties that will work for Jungle Fire’s brilliant debut, Tropicoso.

They first got together as a one-off project and ended up recording two 45s on Ohio’s Colemine Records that hit hard. At live shows, the feeling they were getting from the crowd convinced them that the project should be expanded into a fully fledged act. Booking a run of shows in the UK meant the band had to grow their repertoire for a full night’s action and believe me, the London show was one of the very best shows of last year. Recording an EP for Colemine to sell at the shows meant the band stretched further towards an album, that was completed when they returned from the UK.

After a brief intro, the album launches off with the incendiary “Comencemos (Let’s Start)” a dynamic retelling of Fela Kuti’s mighty “Let’s Start”. Another fiery cover comes courtesy of “Los Feligreses” but the band’s own original material is just as good as these classics. “Firewalker”, “Tropicoso”, “Culebro”, “Village Hustle” and “Chalupa” all hit hard with a heady mix of latin afro funk, that really delivers on the funk part in a new way – setting them apart from other acts on the scene. Terrific stuff.

Heavy live show and interview:


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Single & free download: Emma Donovan & The PutBacks – Daddy

Australia’s HopeStreet Recordings are showcasing their latest signing with a free download of their debut single. And what a fantastic debut this is. The gritty and honest vocal from Emma Donovan, paired with the groove of Melbourne rhythm combo The PutBacks is really quite electric on this, very cinematic and super-hip track, sounding like it could have easily busted out of the defining moment of a soul cinema flick. Unsurprisingly then, it is also accompanied by a boss-cool, street-tough video that is also very cinematic. No mess. The full-length album “Dawn” will be released on 10th November in the UK.

Get your free ‘Daddy’ download here:


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Funkalicious: Friday 3rd October


Calling all funkateers. Its about time to get your groove on with DJs Philster and Mr Higgs. Mainly expect heavy, heavy funk – plus soul, latin, breakbeat, reggae, old school hip-hop, and fusion goodness on the side.

Friday 3rd October
The White Horse
94 Brixton Hill
9pm-3am FREE!

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Super-rare interview with Betty Davis, from 1974


Here’s a super-rare, 1974 radio interview from raw, funk and roll banshee Betty Davis. Married to Miles Davis (she was the subject of his “Filles De Kilimanjaro” album cover) and good friends with Jimi Hendrix, whose influence she introduced to Miles. She is also a hot favourite amongst funk and soul fans for her own recording output of raunchy, nasty, rock-tinged funk, that was recently expanded from three, to four official albums when in 2009, Light of the Attic Records released the shelved, “Is It Love Or Desire” album from 1976. In this interview, the famously reclusive Davis, talks briefly about how she produced her second album “They Say I’m Different”, as well as influences ranging from her grandmother to Sly Stone.

Credits: many thanks to Amber Frost from Dangerous Minds, for her original post:
and to Joshua Eyre for finding.

The only other audio interview we are aware of was from “The Sound Of Young America” podcast show in 2009. Find out more about that interview here:


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Funkalicious – Friday 5th September


DJs Philster & Mr Parker open an exploding bag of dance floor dy-no-mite!

Friday 5th September
The White Horse
94 Brixton Hill
9pm-3am FREE!

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Review: Osaka Monaurail – Riptide


Japan’s Osaka Monaurail have been laying down the funk for an incredible 20 years – and as a fine way of celebrating this anniversary, they have proven their ability to go from strength to strength, turning in a new album which is amongst their finest in an incredible canon of work. The full title, wonderfully displayed on the cover, reads “Osaka Monaurail Performs Riptide And Other Readings From The Book Of Funk”, is the band at their tightest, most energetic best. Positively oozing superheavy funk from a watertight, syncopated foundation of drums and percussion, comes some wonderfully detailed guitar, driving bass and super-sharp horn arrangements, all backing the infectious, percussive vocal timbre of enigmatic frontman, Ryo Nakata. The lineup is working so well at this point that the highly disciplined tightness of their sound, coming from a pure source of dedication and enthusiasm, literally bounces of its own walls as each of the band are firmly and deeply in step with the next.

Four of the album’s nine tracks take on a jazzy, fusion sound, the best of which, “Liberty” is a rousing, passionate freedom anthem that builds terrifically atop lashings of wah-wah and a cinematic production feel. Elsewhere the set is dominated by straight-ahead heavy funk that lands explosively. Cover-wise, we are treated to a dynamic version of JB’s “The Drunk” and Cliff Nobles & Co.’s arrangement of the James Boys’ “The Horse”, both adding a serious amount of snap and setting the tone for a late-sixties proto funk vibe to match the cover artwork. Also hitting thunderously, “(She’s A) Riptide” is a dynamic groove, warning of the dangerous affections of an unnamed woman. “Determination” also lays the funk on thick, an effective realisation of Nakata’s mantra ‘positive thinking’, with some great bass work and a heavy drum break for good measure. Perhaps hottest of all though, is the smoking “Fruit Basket” – with a seriously elastic snap – an irresistibly infectious slice of dance floor funk.

Behind the overall groove, it’s a joy to pick out an individual instrument to focus on listening to – the detail, the timing, the way each interlocks into the groove. High caliber performances, dynamic arrangements and crystal-clear production, coupled with a serious dose of superheavy funk, go to making this album a huge success and perhaps the best yet from Osaka Monaurail – a clear display of what makes them one of the best funk bands in the world today.


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Funkalicious: Friday 1st August


Heavy funk & sweet soul for the mind, body and soul!

DJs Philster & Mr Parker.

Friday 1st August
The White Horse
94, Brixton Hill
London SW2 1QN

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Review: Sonny Knight & The Lakers – I’m Still Here


Minneapolis label Secret Stash Records was originally set up in 2009 as a vinyl reissue label, covering funk, soul, afro beat, etc. Following the release of a compilation of rare sides from the local scene on a compilation entitled “Twin Cities Funk & Soul”, label owner Eric Foss saw the opportunity to put on a revue style show featuring artists from the compilation who were still on the scene. The show was a big success and created further demand. One of the artists on the revue, Sonny Knight, released his first 45 in 1965 and later joined local band “Haze” after a 3 year call of duty in Vietnam. After six months on the road with the revue, Foss discussed his intention to put a new band together and record some brand new material with Knight’s grit and enthusiasm right up front. Before Foss could fully finish, Knight had already accepted and Sonny Knight & The Lakers were born.

The Lakers back Knight in a pleasing, heavy funk style for the most part – and they certainly go for it with gusto, matching Knight’s infectious enthusiasm and a tangible sense of fun working together as they tell simple stories and reach a feel-good groove. There are a couple of terrific dance step numbers – “Sonny’s Boogaloo” and the frantic funk throw-down “Caveman”, offering up a dance Jimmy Castor would be proud of, its break featuring caveman grunts and musings. Also on the heavy side, the pounding “Hey Girl” drops a funk bomb, launching into a furious break half way through as Knight calls up band members for a spotlight. Along with the fun, there are thoughtful moments too, as on the two-part title track which nicely segues back to back. The first part documenting the fear and harder times Knight experienced returning from Vietnam to a world that had rapidly changed, backed by the band ‘King Heroin’ style. Part two, then launches into the bright antidote as Knight proclaims “I’m still here, you can’t keep me down”, while the atmosphere in the track builds terrifically. And long may he stay.

From the opening funk of “Juicy Lucy” to Knight’s closing urge that “Everyone get up and dance – that’s what you came here for”, this album ticks a whole lot of boxes with great writing, playing, arrangements and production that benefits from a band recording live in the studio with a mix of vintage and new equipment and techniques – a fantastic first studio album from Secret Stash, who already have some impressive reissues for sale. And with the promise of more good stuff to come, The Lakers essentially in place as the house band are already working on the next album project – definitely one to watch out for.


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Review: Lee Fields & The Expressions – Emma Jean


Truth & Soul have consistently delivered high quality music since their inception, the albums they produce make great listening because of the depth and quality of the music, paired with the soulfulness of the artists – of whom Lee Fields is up there with the very best with his, truly unique, warm, gritty, full and very hip rasp. Its just a joy to listen to him sing, whether on record or in person, he is an outstanding performer.

Born in North Carolina, Fields started recording and performing in the late sixties. His debut album, released a decade later, bucked the disco trend, featuring a slew of hot and heavy funk tracks. After years in the wilderness, his triumphant late nineties return to funk on Desco Records with The Soul Providers was right on the money. A few years later, another fine album of raw funk surfaced on the short lived Soul Fire label and when the owner left the business, he left the recording studio in the capable hands of Jeff Silverman and longtime Desco and Daptone musician, Leon Michels, who together formed a production team that has forged a new direction for soul. This is somehow not revivalist, there is of course a firm nod to the heyday sound of the sixties and seventies but the production is very progressive and now. This gives T&S a real edge and their best artist, is of course the magnificent Lee Fields. Now on the one hand, T&S have led Fields somewhat away from raw funk, however, the sheer class and depth of the soulful sound they are forging with him has taken his career to new heights. Indeed, in my opinion, the album they released in 2009, “My World” is a contender for Fields’ career best and certainly one of the best soul albums of the last 10 years.

For this, the third T&S Lee Fields album, Michels has solely produced the album, having moved the studio from Brooklyn to Queens. There are outstanding contributions from long term T&S musicians and an interesting collaboration with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who previously worked with Michels and bassist Nick Movshon on the fantastic Dr John album “Locked Down”. Two tracks, JJ Cale cover “Magnolia” and “Paralyzed”, recorded with Auerbach, are in a kind of country-soul style. They are a slightly darker tone to the uplifting, sunny sound we are used to hearing from the team but they work well and take Fields in another new direction in which he also proves his worth. Elsewhere the material is handled with a kind of vibe that could compete with the Mizell Brothers – in that songs are deep and real, yet handled with a lightness of touch that lifts them into the stratosphere. For example “Eye To Eye” starts off with a big fanfare before dropping the instruments out, leaving Fields’ stark voice to sit atop a bare piano and soft drumming. As the song builds, so do the layers of instrumentation – horns blaze and the organ swells as the song rises cinematically. On the funkier side, “Just Can’t Win” is a gorgeously layered slice of funk, matched by the upbeat “Standing By Your Side”. An interesting Leon Russell cover “In The Woods” again adds a string to Fields’ bow. “Talk To Somebody” imposes a heavy tango; and the cry baby on “Stone Angel” shows how effective The Expressions’ backing is at adding tremendous value to Fields’ tone. One track continues to refuse to play all the way through, demanding repeat restarts – the amazing “All I Need”, instrumental save for an impassioned blast from Fields at the end – it’s a terrific groove that gains in intensity, crashes into a thrilling breakdown, before building up again to an exciting peak as layers of percussion add to the groove.

It takes a few listens to get under the skin of this album but not long to realise it’s another Lee Fields classic that deserves to be listened to again and again. True art. He is still very much the main man.


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Funkalicious: Friday 4th July


Funkalicious is the soul happening party where people go to get their groove on. Get down with some seriously funky business, from the past to the present as DJs Philster & Popcorn unleash a dance floor bombshell of heavy, heavy funk & sweet, sweet soul.

Friday 4th July
White Horse
94 Brixton Hill
Brixton SW2 1QN
9pm-3am FREE

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Review: The Dustaphonics – Big Smoke London Town


For a few years now, The Dustaphonics have been shaking up the London scene with an excitingly energetic party groove sound that distills such wide-ranging influences as 50’s R&B sleaze, 60’s garage rock, vintage soul, blues, surf, punk, you name it. It’s a distinctly vintage sound presented with a modern twist and production sense that carefully preserves the passionate rawness of the music.

Headed up by the co-founder of the “Raison D’être Collective” – DJ, musician, producer and promoter Yvan Serrano-Fontova, who has long been presenting exciting revue style shows around London. The remainder of the lineup has completely changed since the release of their first album, 2011’s excellent “Party Girl”. The dynamic rhythm section compliments Serrano’s up-front, reverb-drenched guitar as Eric Frajria alternates with Bruce Brand on the drums and solid backbone bass from Dan Whaley. New vocalist, Hayley Red puts in a charismatic, fun and energetic performance on this, her impressive debut album appearance. All the material here is fresh too, with the exception of “When You Gonna Learn”, which survives the back catalogue repertoire to get a vital redux with an energising call and response on top of blazing guitar; whilst the album’s one cover, bluesman Louisiana Red’s “Ride On Louisiana Red”, gets an epic road trip rock ‘n’ roll makeover. Beyond the anthemic title track, which deserves to be one of those tracks you play as you get ready to go out on the town, each track is as fresh as the last. A motor revs up the start of “Grand Prix”, a thrilling rockabilly-surf instrumental. “Rockin’ Boogaloo” does what it says on the tin, whilst delivering cool guitar breaks and terrific, rolling surf drums before jumping back into Hayley’s spirited vocal. “Don’t Let The Devil Drive Your Car” is more foot-stomping road trip cool, while the vibrant go-go of “Back To Mono” bounces along in a kinetic groove. The broodingly moody surf instrumental “Fire Dance” paints a cinematic soundscape of a beach party, a reminder that while there is a whole load of London energy in this album, the musical influence is also very much American. The closing “Flesh & Blood” is a tender, sultry serenade that exposes the beauty of of Hayley Red’s breathy vocals against a simple acoustic guitar, nicely contrasting the album’s overall guttural delivery and pace.

With a fantastic sound and attitude, nostalgic Americana clashes head-on with a heady London attitude and vintage style, to create one of this year’s most energetic and vital releases. Party with The Dustaphonics until your feet hurt and you lose your voice.


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