Album Reviews

Soul Scratch

Pushing Fire

Artist:     Soul Scratch

Album:     Pushing Fire

Label:     Colemine Records

Release Date:     01/13/2017

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A San Francisco band with a mission, Soul Scratch calls on the healing power of R&B and soul to unite people in joy and love. Does this sound more like 1967 than 2017? So does their cookin’, funky, second studio outing, which is bound to win over fans of The J.B.’s, Booker T & The MG’s, and Curtis Mayfield.  On ten original songs, everyone’s contribution matters and the soulful result is both raw and polished.

Joel Givertz (guitar), Dale Spollett (vocals), Johnny Chou (bass), Adam Greenberg (drums), Matt Reale (trumpet), and Ian Anderson (saxophone) are a true ensemble, as players and as songwriters. The overall sound is just spare enough, the arrangements just thick enough, lending a modern, SoCal feel to their otherwise classic sound. That bit of space in the arrangements lets you feel you’re at a live show. Reale and Anderson play in traditional Memphis Horns style, bright and tight. Chou’s fat, chatty bass recalls Fred Thomas’s work with The J.B.’s. Kassandra Kocoshis sits in on percussion for a funky partnering with Greenberg. Spollett’s powerful, wailing tenor is almost androgynous, a timely sound. He takes full authority for the lyrics. In keeping with the band’s mission, that includes several songs for social change.

Talking about “Look How Far We’ve Come,” Spollett has said, “this song was inspired by the tragic loss of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and far too many others.” Riding an anxious 6/8 groove, he sings, “Cops killing young Black men. Time to wake ourselves up now… People need to cry out but we’ve forgotten how to scream.” On “It’s Not Over,” Spollett sings his heart out: “Still people hungry on the corner. … Sometimes, it’s hard to bring a change about a system with no fellowship, only grief.”

Wonderful love lyrics are also heard here. “Kiss Me In The Morning, with no makeup on your face. No eyes hidden, Baby. Your hair all over the place.” An upbeat funk instrumental with a rumbling foundation, “Odessa Heat,” shows off the band’s sound at its balanced best: a combo of horn, sax, electric guitar and percussion textures that makes you want to get up and move.

Other standouts include: “Be Kind,” a hearty tune with a James Brown-influence that really should get airplay features a nice, fat bass, smokin’ horns and a great sax solo; and “Empty Cup,” with Greenberg’s fine drumming, songwriting that recalls Sharon Jones’s band, a fine vocal by Spollett, plus more great sax and horn. Want CD, LP, 45, or a limited edition orange LP? Want romance, social justice, or just plain funk? There’s a satisfying Soul Scratch for your soul itch.

– Annie Dinerman

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