Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard (July)

Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard
Ben Lovett - The Grooveyard Peven Everett (i) Peven Everett (ii) Leon Ware (Mark de-Clive Lowe): Work Me (Expansion House) Maya Jane Coles: Comfort Ripperton: A Little Part Of Shade Nathan Adams: Audio Therapy (Tribe Records) Under The Influence: Volume Three (Z Records) Zona Feat. Valerie Moise: I am Beautiful (US Good For You)

“I define myself as an artist who has lived through a wave of real artists coming on” singer, songwriter, DJ and producer Peven Everett opens.  “Because of those artists coming on, they’ve become my reference points. They really did the job... I’m talking about people like Miles Davis, Cedar Walton, Max Roach.... these classic jazz types.  I was fortunate enough to know some of these people professionally, even personally, and kept them close.  They link me to the bare roots of an honourable time, when artists were ‘in the craft’.”


It’s a way of musical life Everett is keen to extend. In an era of disposable DIY download content – tracks made in the bedroom, and released to the world in mere nanoseconds – he fights for something more. A thoroughly considered, fully immersive creative process, and all the skilful musicianship, insightful song and heartfelt groove that entails, should always, he says, come first:  “some of the craft...the art...has been lost today.  There’s a point of no return and the music industry has passed it for worse, not for the better.  I’ve fought hard and long, and people didn’t expect that from me. I stuck by what I believed in...loving music...and that’s why I think I’ve stood the test of time.”
To date, Everett has released a staggering 10 studio albums, ranging from acclaimed 2001 debut Studio Confessions to 2009’s Party Of The Year. Singles, like albums, have dropped on a range of soulful house-affiliated labels including Soul Heaven, Diaspora, King Street offshoot Nite Grooves and Defected’s ITH. Everett, however, represents much, much more than simply house.
Something new album King Of Hearts demonstrates convincingly. Everett’s 11th long-player is a vivid, highly emotive reflection on love lost and found again, laid bare across everything from R&B and power soul to funk and hip-hop via, yes, house. It’s raw and smooth all at the same time.
Over time, Everett realised he had enough material to determine a farther-reaching, even more powerful project about the human condition – his own. Some of the older tracks were re-recorded to provide necessary freshness but all in all King Of Hearts had a natural, powerful flow. Early industry reaction suggests it’s his best work yet, a genuine artistic progression beyond clichéd interview soundbite; does Everett agree?
“Put it this way, I needed time to know myself, to fully understand myself at this moment in my life. That I think has made this record very special for me” he reflects. “Billie Jewell [Everett’slong-term label signing] thought the title summed this record and I up perfectly. It does, I think, reflect my fullest progression and outlook. That said I’ve only just started to race. There’s a long, long way to go yet!”
The further development of his live show is one of Everett’s first objectives.  “I want to ring the changes” he points out; “I want to sharpen things up.  For the first I’ll be singing songs with distinct beginnings and ends. The breaks will make it easier for people to post videos and content online; I’m commercialising things, making them digital friendly.  I really wanted to do this.”
That doesn’t mean Peven is looking to ‘crossover’ to the mainstream any time soon.  He remains focussed on balancing underground fervour with sober business acumen.  “How do I sum it up?” he questions. “I am a commercial artist with an underground heart.  I want to be a part of that wider community so that I can show I haven’t forgotten them.  It’s still my vision and my heart.  I’m not doing anything purely for money and selfish ambition.  I want to be there for as many people as I can, doing what it is that I do.”
Everett acknowledges that life is still hard on the clubbing underground for vocalists; the long maintained biased towards DJ and producer makes it difficult for singer-songwriters to find a consistent voice and profile.  There is no room, he says, for complacency:  “A great deal of inspiration goes to the DJ.  The vocalist’s star power is weakened considerably, in consequence.  Therefore, your force of character is vital.  I have ensured that I am self sufficient; that I do everything where possible.  Because if you ‘make’ the product then you control the brand and can build brand consistency.  That again is the reason, I think, I’m here.  I’ve fought for be the one leading the way.”
Aside from continuing his own journey, Everett is accompanying protégé Billie Jewell – a key signing to his Studio Confession stable.  Not only is he helping her develop new music but advancing their collaboration together, PBJ.  Everett has also made time to further ‘champagne’ hip-hop project Upper Esh and build a substantial schedule of releases for Studio Confession.  The first fruits should hit in weeks, with Jewell’s debut album then due late this year.
“You’ve got to stay focused.  It’s about being able to protect your heritage but gauge the market also and prepare yourself well for the future.  Otherwise this industry will leave you far behind” Everett reflects.  Past achievements mean nothing, it seems, unless he’s pushing on afresh to earn new ones.  “Well, the pace of music today is staggering and you have to keep up before you can even consider cutting through the noise.  There are lots of projects I’m currently working on and Jewell is a great example of my belief that it is the art that progresses the artist; not the other way round.  I have a difficulty figuring out what her weakness is; she doesn’t have a comfy spot...her music and emotion leads her into so many different genres.  That’s really exciting.”
Everett is determined to respond against anything that goes against ‘loving music’.  That happens, in his mind, to be a lot; but he’s confident and committed.  “All over the world there’s a drought effect” he indicates. “People need to feel something; they’re keen to feel but these hybrids of what has gone before don’t cut it.  People want something new; not the industry forcing something on them.  I share their belief.  The craft, the emotion, the feeling...all of it should progress the artist and the genres they end up working in.  It should never be the other way round.  If more people thought like this then things really would be different.
“That said we’re all humans.  And when people criticise evolutions like technology I tend to disagree.  It is the people operating technology, or instruments for that matter, who articulate; not their computers, or tools.  As long as that human quality has an opportunity to express itself then there are always opportunities for soulful music.”

Peven Everett’s new album King Of Hearts is out now on Makin’ Moves Records; double A-side single Taking Me Back/When I Want Someone It’s You is also out now.


Zona feat. Valerie Moise – I Am Beautiful (US Good For You)

Sunshine LA collective Zona dispenses soothing goodtime vibes in the form of this effortless soul-dance glide.  The original’s mellow splice of funky bass, sweet keys and acoustic solos with Moise’s velvety vocals is complimented by deeper, hazier but no less superbly soulful house re-rubs from Deez (AKA Demarkus Lewis).  Zona’s pedestrian breaks remix falls somewhat short but the overall release gleams.

Leon Ware (with Mark de Clive-Lowe) – Work Me (UK Expansion House)

Soul legend Ware, celebrating 50 years in music this year, hooks up with tip-top Kiwi producer de Clive-Lowe for this sophisticated new lick, propping up those silky smooth vocals on a bed of sparse but soulful electro-edged downbeats. Remixers Reel People up tempo but match the minimalism, their smart percussive backing and subtle jazz licks suiting Ware equally well. Top banana.

Various Artists – Under The Influence: Volume Three (UK Z Records)

London-raised, San Francisco-based DJ and collector James Glass continues Z’s cult compilation series with another strong splice of lesser known disco, boogie and funk. Sweet Talks’ afro-hustlin’ opener Do The Beat – a 1979 release – sets the pace perfectly, leading into Harold Butler’s sweet piano skanking lilt Do It Anyday, Rexy’s epic cosmic disco whirl Nervoso and Magnum’s peacockin’, super phat funk jam Squivatch. The standouts keep coming, later nuggets supplied by Expansives’ crisp Italo-disco dive Life With You and, at the other end of the scale, Eleanore Mills’ sweeping Northern Soul number Same Routine; a heavenly fusion of tonsils, strings and soulful sentiment. Utterly intoxicating stuff.

Nathan Adams – Audio Therapy (UK Tribe Records)

It’s testament to London singer-songwriter Adams’ ability and recent prowess that Audio Therapy ends up a perfect showcase of his easy, laidback vocal delivery (and fluid penmanship) rather than just another hollow collection of guest producers, as is so often the case with singers’ albums in the clubland space. From opener Falling, given stately soul-house glide by Louie Vega, to recent Black Coffee collaboration Afraid Of The Dark, Adams’ heartfelt anguish matched by Coffee’s haunting key-stabbed backing, Audio Therapy is entirely Adams’ expression – a rich sweep of soul-dance and nu-soul songs, given real meaning and necessary direction by the frontman. Renowned house producers including Josh Milan, DJ Spinna and Tribe-sman Zepherin Saint also hit the mark as guests, similarly complimenting Adams’ vision with a highly consistent, engaging backdrop of soulful rhythms and grooves. Just Another Love Song, an epic, melodic, supremely jazzy hook-up with Spinna is arguably standout. Majestic.

Ripperton – A Little Part Of Shade (Nl Green)

According to Swiss tech-houser Raphael Ripperton, sophomore album A Little Part Of Shade is “quite the opposite” of his serene soundscape debut Niwa, offering greater focus on the internal human dialogue – the private “inside garden” we all supposedly keep. Nevertheless, sonically, this deep, highly involved work picks up right where Niwa finished. And that’s no complaint. Where Niwa’s looseness and gentle, free-wheelin’ amble both beguiled and frustrated, A Little Part Of Shade manages to much more effectively balance the organic with purposeful structure. Hence immersive, acoustic soundscapes such as the album’s title track, and deliciously hazy, piano-graced ascent No More Airplanes (complete, too, with reversed guitar) gain further clarity by sitting alongside edgy breakbeat blues (I Don’t Know) and swinging house (Tape Hiss) – both given clear impetus by Hemlock Smith’s maverick guest vocals – not to mention the minimal, yet melodic pulse of For All The Wrong Reasons.  Closing track Spike, a delicate, painfully emotive love song with Smith again on vocals, is perhaps the brightest reflection here of Ripperton’s significant progress as producer and story teller.

Maya Jane Coles – Comfort (UK I/Am/Me)

Maya Jane Coles’ relentless rise through the global house ranks can only continue on evidence of Comfort, her assured debut album. There is nothing she doesn’t turn her hands to here – beats, lyrics, mixdown, even vocals. The result is a thrillingly controlled blend of accessibility, quirk and, crucially, feeling fired confidently across several dark, moody, visceral deep house and electronic productions; productions absorbing wider influences from the worlds of R&B, hip-hop and indie-rock. The soulful glow of Burning Bright, featuring former Hercules & The Love Affair front Kim Ann Foxman, has future single written all over it, whilst weighty Tricky collaboration Wait For You ensnares via its mesmeric beats and repetitive dual vocals. Elsewhere, however, When I’m In Love quite literally soars on Thomas Knights’ stunning guest vocals, a welcome counterpoint to Coles’ heavier (in all senses of the word) moments; and, similarly, Miss Kittin collaboration Take A Ride exhilarates thanks to the uplifting interweave of stabby synths and keys.  Coles should take ‘comfort’ in this, her first major studio outpouring; it’s well-played throughout, nodding to the trademark rumble of earlier productions and her relentless work as DJ, but suggesting, conclusively, that there is much more to come.

Ben Lovett

Still working the late shift!!!

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