Review: Feeling lucky? With grooves as raw, sizzling and energetic as these, there's a strong chance you might be. Hot on the heels of their "Mesquite Beat" 45 comes this equally earthy and frank doublet. "'Bout To Blow" is a big pant swinging blues affair while "Saints & Beggars" takes us up a notch with a whirling 6/8 signature whirling waltz where the horns and drums take the lead and we follow in their every dreamy footstep. Look out for the album Mesquite Suite coming on Tramp very soon.
Review: A northern soul rarity of the highest order, one 45 wonder Hank Hodge's two sided emotion bounty has been known to pass hands for over $1000 and was famously covered up by premiership diggers such as Colin Law to hide its identity. Now democratised by Tramp, both sides still pack an incredible punch: "One Way Love" pumps with a real urgent passion and dramatic horns while "Thank You Girl" should be reserved for a little later in the night with its straight up soul dynamic, big backing vocals and sympathetic orchestration that droops into the background enough to let Hodge cut through with overwhelming power.
Review: These days, Pennsylvania-based John Wesley Dickson is an academic and classical guitarist. Back in the late '70s and early '80s, though, he spent much of his time playing in soul, funk and rhythm and blues bands. "Barrows Blues" was recorded and released in limited quantities during that period (1977 to be exact) and is a terrific example of the artist's blues-influenced blue-eyed soul-jazz sound (think Terry Callier mixed with Morrison Kincannon, and you're close). As with the original release, the brilliant title track is accompanied by mellower B-side "High & Dry". This is a more pastoral sounding song that boasts particularly hard-hitting lyrics from Wesley Dickson.
Review: George E Johnson's "Wake Me Up" is another of those killer funk rarities that very few people know about. It was released at some point in the dim and distant past on C.R.S Records, a deep funk imprint from Philadelphia that will soon be the subject of a Tramp Records compilation. This reissue, then, is something of a teaser for that set. "Wake Me Up" is a suitably heavy number, with George E Johnson delivering an impressively impassioned lead vocal over a fuzzy, intoxicated groove rich in distorted guitars, psychedelic-era Hammond organ licks, snaking sax lines and bustling drum-breaks. B-side "The Penn Walk" strips out Johnson's vocal, allowing the backing band's killer instrumentation to really shine.
Review: Barely available in its original format, Frederick Knight's first - and most highly sought after - release from the late 60s is a jacking, upstart bit of funky soul that is as relevant today as it was back then. "Stepping Down" carries an infectious groove, carried by wild organs and driving percussion all the way from beginning to the end, but it's "Heart Complication" that we've been waiting endlessly for - a slow and chilling soul ballad with Knight's seductive laments cutting deep and wide. Super!
Review: Predictably, Tramp's latest killer reissue comes from an artist that very little is known about. The sought-after "Steppin' Stone" (an original copy will set you back three figures) is little Mary Staten's only known release, and first appeared on the short-lived GME imprint sometime in the 1960s. The title track is predictably fuzzy - the kind of impassioned, on-point soul cut that Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings spent a career trying to capture. On the flip you'll find the equally impressive "Helpless Girl", a gospel-influenced, organ-rich slow jam in which Staten recounts the heartache felt after discovering the behaviour of an errant, bad-boy lover.
Review: Tramp dig deep into the short-but-powerfully formed 1964-66 vaults of Jan Kurtis Skugstad's Seattle label Camelot with this fiery 45" from Jim Pipkin & The Boss Five. "Mr CC" is a big swing call and response style horn piece with casual bandleading from Pipkin himself (including a very early recorded use of the term 'shamoan') while "Walkin' The Duck" is a sweatier jam with a brazenly tight horn/guitar groove and more steamy cat-calling from ol' Pipkin himself. Camelot = winnalot.
Review: George Brown (Vocals, Bass) Johnny Prejean (Drums), Charles Conrad Greenway (Vocals, Keyboards) Cliff Faldowski (Guitar) and Henry Boatright (Sax) made for quite the ensemble under their Soul Brothers Inc moniker, a project that ran from the late 60s through to the mid 70s and one which defined the Texas soul sound thanks to countless releases through the infamous S.B.I. Records. "Put It On Him" and "Go On & Have Your Fun" featured on one of the 7" singles that the band put out in 1971, and they still sound as fresh and as funky today as they did back then. Most importantly, both tunes have a very definite 'Texan' sound running through them, nodding to a country living that could not be matched by artists from Detroit or Philadelphia. It's their city, their vibe, their sound - and it sounds damn fine.
Thomas Meloncon - "Ain't Gonna Wait Too Long" (2:49)
Al Williams Quintet Plus One - "Sandance" (2:32)
Deep Jazz - "Mystic Sky" (8:22)
Sheila Landis - "Leigh Ann's Dance" (5:16)
Sal Nistico - "Beautiful Black Casanova" (6:47)
Roy Hytower & The Crowd Pleasers - "Song Of Deliverance" (part 1) (3:16)
Now - "Easy Tune For Dancing" (3:55)
Review: Since the turn of the millennium, Germany's Tramp Records have been among those labels dictating the rules and forming the state of play in regards to the contemporary funk and soul scene. They've been consistently releasing new talent from all over the globe, and this time they return with the second chapter of the Peace Chant series, a division of the imprint reserved to the cooler, more lean-back kinda jazz-funk. It's not all percussion and moodiness, though, and tracks like "Ain't Gonna Wait Too Long" by Thomas Meloncon add a bit of funk and zest to the equation; other favourites and stand-out moments include the effortlessly soulful "Mystic Sky" by Deep Jazz, and the sexy "Leigh Ann's Dance" by Sheila Landis. Cool, beautiful, and highly recommended.