Many of the sprightly substandard Motown sound-alikes who are worshipped as northern soul never held the same fascination for me as they do for fancy-dancing British dads and their sweaty sons. But for some reason, I found DJ Honky 's new double-disc-on-the-down-low mix A Yankee In The Court Of Northern Soul (Hearingmusic) remarkably engaging throughout. It could be due to his fresh American perspective or his funk-informed aesthetic, but there's far less of the insufferable tweeness and happy-sappy sentimentality that typically comes with the bouncy grooves favoured by UK connoisseurs.
Honky has the advantage of not needing to impress northern collector nerds with rare test-pressing discoveries or pricey Wigan faves snuck from Kev Roberts's box (nor does he have to concern himself with that licensing business), allowing him to include whatever sounds good to him.
And the 7th Avenue Aviators , Explosive Dynamiks , Those Two , the TNJ 's, the Inverts , Hank Hodge , Court Davis , Yvonne Vernee , Tan Geers , the Modern Redcaps and the Chell-Mars sound pretty darn good to me, too.
Unfortunately, it's a promo-only proposition until some shrewd coffee baron cuts a deal with my man Honky to start serving up this fabulous mix with grande lattes. firstname.lastname@example.org .
Hooray for José
Up until just recently, precious little of what Gilles Peterson has put out on his Brownswood label has been impressive, but the appearance of a white-label 10-inch single by rising young jazz singer José James (not the Panamanian multi-instrumentalist) is an unexpected delight.
The NYC-based New School grad draws inspiration from Andy Bey and Terry Callier and makes no secret of the fact as he lends his deep, mellow tone to an inventive reading of John Coltrane's Equinox and Resolution with his own lyrics added. Convincing the notoriously protective Coltrane estate to agree to allow such drastic revisions of Trane's classics is an amazing feat, although the numbered edition of 500 copies suggests that some details may still need to be worked out. In any case, get it while you can. www.myspace.com/josejamesquartet .
Peterson has always been better at throwing together funky jazz collections than running labels, and his forthcoming Gilles Peterson Digs America, Vol. 2 (Ubiquity) set - due September 25 - is far better than his first attempt, if only because he had the sense to avoid previously comped material.
The track selection - including two Mary Lou Williams numbers as well as a cool gospel jazz swinger from James Tatum and lesser-known vocal heat from Lorez Alexandria , Irene Kral and Al Jarreau (!) - happily leans more toward spiritual and cosmic jams than the rare groove fare for which he's best known. www.ubiquityrecords.com.
When it comes to soul and R&B cover bands, sometimes too much familiarity with the originals can get in the way of exciting interpretations.
That doesn't seem to have been a problem for Mexico City's Rabbits and Carrots . Their recently reissued Soul Latino (VampiSoul) album shows a healthy disregard for the compositional subtleties of tunes by Junior Walker , Rufus Thomas , Kool & the Gang , James Brown and Nino Rota as they bash out funky mix 'n' match instrumental versions of their own freaky design.
Yeah, it's dope. www.vampisoul.com.