These days—shit, from their very beginnings—Burger Records has put out some of the industry’s best music. Recently, the budding California record label earned praise from The New York Times, as did one of its newest artists, Curtis Harding.
For this Atlanta-based garage soul singer/songwriter, the idea of working as a recording artist was always in the back of his mind, even though Soul Power, his solo debut, is a far cry from the first rap he wrote when he was nine. Or maybe the two are similar, both exemplifying the inner workings of a free-thinking, strong-willed man.
First, there’s Harding’s voice, honed over several years singing backup for CeeLo Green. However, Harding’s voice first took shape far earlier, when he sang gospel in church as a child. “My mother didn’t necessarily like everything I listened to,” Harding said. “She was definitely a force to be reckoned with whenever it came to trying to listen to something other than gospel music. She would always try to provide an alternative like Christian rock or Christian hip-hop.” Though he rebelled as all adolescents do (the first record he bought, or merely attempted to buy, since there was a parental advisory sticker on it, was a rap album), gospel never really left him, and years later, after he moved to Atlanta and met Cole Alexander (vocalist/guitarist of local garage rock mainstays, the Black Lips), it would lead him down a new road.
“I had heard about the Black Lips for years and would see them from time to time, but never really cared,” Harding recalled. “I mean, until one encounter; I was at this bar in Georgia and they were DJ-ing. Cole was playing gospel.” From that encounter, Night Sun, a side project comprised of Harding, Alexander, Joe Bradley (also of the Black Lips) and Danny Lee Blackwell of Night Beats, was born. Although Burger released their debut single, “No Pressure,” last year, all the band members were involved in other projects, so Night Sun never took off as everyone had hoped. This was, however, a blessing in disguise for Harding, who now had a batch of songs he could use for a solo project. Soon, Harding was in the studio, banging out an album over an intense two-week span. “Every day for two weeks, that was my life,” Harding said.
In addition to its poignant lyrics and sultry vocals that’ll make you weak in the knees, several other elements make Soul Power a likely pick for best album lists come December. There’s some shredding from the Black Lips boys and then there’s R&B man Curtis Whitehead, taking bass lines to the next level—anyone who was at the sold-out record release show at 529 in Atlanta, or the Mercury Lounge show in New York last month can confirm (click here to listen to Whitehead laying it down like he invented the damn thing; just watch it and tell me otherwise). Garrulously transitioning between songs as the best frontmen do, Harding breezed through his Mercury Lounge set and left everyone wanting more—fortunately, he played again in New York the next night.
It won’t be long before Harding moves onto bigger stages, most likely opening for Charles Bradley. For now, you can catch Harding on July 17th in Nashville, July 18th in Louisville and July 19th in Asheville, NC (opening for the Black Lips).“I would love to do a full-fledged tour with the Black Lips, maybe that way Cole and I can do some Night Sun songs, but it just depends on scheduling because those dudes are constantly touring.” Keep those fingers crossed.
– Melissa Caruso