Meet John "JB" Bigham, AKA The Soul of John Black. And hold the Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding comparisons.
latest crop of retro soul singers -- Anthony Hamilton, Amy Winehouse,
Ricky Fante, Adele, Raphael Saadiq, James Morrison, Jamie Lidell,
Sharon Jones -- invariably mine the sounds and mannerisms of Motown and
Stax/Volt. It's understandable; that's the mother lode of soul music.
But it's refreshing to encounter in Bigham a soul singer and songwriter
who dials the Wayback machine to radically different eras. Like 1969
San Francisco and the proto-funk of Sly and the Family Stone. Like 1971
James Brown and the blaxploitation soundtracks of Curtis Mayfield and
Isaac Hayes. Like 1983 Prince. Like the swamp boogie of 1968 Creedence
Clearwater Revival. Like, God forbid, the country blues of 1927 Son
House and Charley Patton.
To say that Bigham is heir to multiple
traditions is a major understatement. A former member of Miles Davis'
band, a cornerstone of the great funk-ska band Fishbone, and session
man for everyone from Dr. Dre to Bruce Hornsby, Bigham has used his
diverse musical background as a springboard for an exploration of the
intersection of blues, rock, soul, and funk. He seamlessly merges
influences and eras, and the results can be heard on his fine new album
Black John, out February 17th on Electro Groove Records. The
groove is, indeed, the thing. It's relentless, and it's enough to get
this sedentary, couch-potato white guy off his backside and spasming in
suburbia. Look, I try. The lyrics are inconsequential; what matters is
the soul and funk, and Bigham brings it on every track. He's a fine
singer, too, throwing in Godfather of Soul grunts and gospel melismas
and pleading, sexually-charged asides that are worthy of Al Green.