The host of Jookhouse shares five songs he’s been playing on the show lately.
“Longer and Stronger” – Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
This is from Sharon’s newest release, “Soul Time!” Jones eschews the hard-funk for a softer approaching, recalling Motown more than Stax or Muscle Shoals. The horns blast loud throughout over top lyrics that play on themes of humility, endurance, and survival. The harmony vocals during the line “pretty young things, they come and they go” are the highlight.
“I Ain’t the Same” – Alabama Shakes
One of the few bands being run through the hype machine that actually deserves the praise and attention they’ve received. Some of the most soulful vocals on a debut album that I’ve heard in a long long time. Brittany Howard hits all the right notes. She’s yells, goes falsetto, and growls with all the grit and swagger of her predecessors. There’s also a nice skittering guitar solo and a dancing bass line that hold everything together. This band is spectacular.
“Get it While You Can” – Howard Tate
Most people know Janis Joplin’s version (which is also excellent), but Howard’s original really struts along during the chorus. The song alternates between ballad-like verses (with Tate really showing off an impressive vocal range) and a swinging, funky chorus with a choked guitar and swinging ride cymbal. Who can argue with the chorus, “get it while you can?”
“Bra” – Cymande
Although they are a pretty obscure 70s funk band, Cymande deserves a much wider reputation for the way they combined West African rhythms, funk, reggae, jazz, and soul. If they made music now, they’d probably be called a jam-band, and it wouldn’t be ok for the cool kids to listen to them. Anyway, most of the musicians were self-taught, and all pieces of 9-piece band lock in as if they were born to play together. The sax solo is funky and fantastic, and the horns really carry the melody. The bass/cowbell break down all leads up to a big finale that then ducks right back into the final verse/chorus.
“I Plan to Stay a Believer” – Curtis Mayfield
This live version was recorded at New York City’s famed Bitter End. Mayfield’s falsetto vocals are as good as it can get. Mayfield’s lyrics are, as usual, full or warning and melancholy but also optimistic. He’s also a very underrated guitarist as this song demonstrates. His understated telecaster slices in and out while the snare and ride cymbal provide just enough rumble to make the ballad bite a little harder than one might expect. The song is just “something to put on your mind” as Mayfield exhorts at the song’s conclusion.