Some music enthusiasts say that there’s a revivalist movement afoot, intent upon harkening back to the funk/soul sound that was so wonderfully prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s.
Some music enthusiasts say that there’s a revivalist movement afoot, intent upon harkening back to the funk/soul sound that was so wonderfully prevalent in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of those same people point to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings as being at the forefront of said movement. Indeed, the group uses old-school analogue recording equipment, tube amps, and other gear that was integral to creating the original sonic landscape of funk/soul music. Their records are so purposely authentic that many first-time listeners don’t catch on to the fact that they are contemporary.
Another artist rich with throwback credibility is Lenny Kravitz, who also leans heavily on tube mics, vintage guitars, tube amps, and reel-to-reel recording gear. He generally dresses the part as well, looking like he just walked out of 1976. Despite his funk and soul roots, though, Kravitz employs a pop/rock aesthetic in his artistry, as well. That rock edge comes through loud and clear, while always bringing the groove along with it. The aural combo has served Kravitz well throughout his lengthy, rarely lagging career.
An occasional Kravitz collaborator and former band member, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is a 24-year-old horn player from New Orleans hitting nothing but net at every turn. After turns with U2 and Green Day, as well as being a featured performer in various post-Katrina benefit projects, Andrews gained national attention with an appearance on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, as he lead a group of New Orleans in a mesmerizing rendition of “O Holy Night.” His CD releases, including Orleans Avenue and Backatown, have further cemented his role as one to watch in the funk/jazz/hip hop world.
Akin to Trombone Shorty, Soulive takes the funk vibe in a totally different direction, infusing it into a healthy jazz cocktail. While the core trio consists of Eric Krasno (guitar), Alan Evans (drums), and Neal Evans (Hammond B3 organ, bass keys, clavinet), horn sections and vocalists are often found enhancing the Soulive experience. Since their debut album, Turn It Out, the band has gained more and more notoriety among musicians, critics, and fans alike. Touring with a variety of artists, from the Rolling Stones to Common, certainly hasn’t hurt the broadening of the spectrum, either.
While Kravitz has enjoyed a solid run and Andrews is just beginning, their success doesn’t (and likely won’t) come close to that of the Black-Eyed Peas. With one smash hit after another, the BEP are an international sensation selling over 35 million records worldwide in just the past seven years. (Their 2009 single, “I Gotta Feeling,” was the first to ever top one million downloads in the UK alone.) Comprised of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist will.i.am along with vocalists apl.de.ap, Taboo, and Fergie, the Peas bring a definite funkiness to their own blend of hip hop, R&B, electronica, and pop.
Of course, many other artists continue to contribute to the resurgence of funk in its myriads forms. Prince is still among the pioneers of the genre, while youngsters like Justin Timberlake and Marc Broussard appropriate the grooves when warranted without committing themselves beyond that. Regardless of the times, funk is a force all its own and may the force be with us, always.