Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Acantha Lang: Great Expectations

Acantha Lang interview
Acantha Lang interview Acantha Lang interview Acantha Lang interview Acantha Lang interview BUY NOW

Having already received favourable comparisons with the likes of late Miami Soul Queen Betty Wright and Seventies funk diva Betty Davis, New Orleans-born/London-based singer-songwriter Acantha Lang has this month received across-the-board acclaim with the release of her five-track debut EP "Sugar Woman". Whose shuffling mid-tempo title track inspiringly tells the bittersweet story of a forgotten streetwalker while imploring her not to give up on love.

Following which, with its brassy, varied grooves blending her Southern soul heritage with the sophisticated and full arrangements of her nine-piece band, Acantha's new EP additionally showcases her three previously-released singles - the raucous funk juggernaut "He Said/She Said" with its head-on lyrical attack on fake news; the summery, Stax-influenced groove of the chugging "Whatever Happened To Our Love"; and the slow-swaying, poignant ode to her mother "Lois Lang" - alongside a spirited, swinging take on Nina Simone's Sixties Civil Rights anthem "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" which in recent months has impressively been used as the soundtrack to a McDonald's European TV commercial.

Having grown up in the soul/jazz/funk hotbed of New Orleans, Louisiana in a surprisingly-non-musical home, it was not until Acantha relocated to New York that she would begin her singing career, performing at a weekly blues residency in Harlem. Meanwhile, it was not until a further move to London that she would start to properly develop her sound as a recording artist. Since which time her music has impressively to date received over 300,000 streams, BBC Radio 2 Airplay and Jazz FM playlisting alongside the endorsement of legends like US blues/rock superstar Joe Bonamassa and tastemakers like British radio DJ/actor Craig Charles, who will include her aforementioned track "He Said/She Said" on his upcoming album "The Craig Charles Trunk Of Funk Volume 2".

All of which in turn makes for interesting conversation as an instantly-friendly and forthcoming Ms Lang - whose song "Gonna Be Alright" was prestigiously included on US gospel/blues act Robert Randolph & The Family Band's 2017 Grammy-nominated album "Got Soul" - calls up "Blues & Soul" Assistant Editor Pete Lewis for a revealing introductory chat.

Let's start by discussing the title track to your debut EP "Sugar Woman", which you co-wrote with multi-Platinum-selling, Latin Grammy Award-winning producer/composer Kiris Houston…

"'Sugar Woman' was written when I first arrived in London. Basically, I'd been watching the (2012-released) Oscar-winning documentary "Searching For The Sugar Man" about (American singer-songwriter) Sixto Rodriguez. You know, because I was so inspired by it and I thought "Sugar Man" had been such a great title for a song I immediately started thinking to myself 'If the Sugar Man in Rodriguez's song was a drug dealer, what would a Sugar Woman be?'. And when the concept came into my head that a Sugar Woman could be a streetwalker, the lyrics just started pouring out so fast that the whole song was actually written lyrically in a matter of like 20 minutes! So then from there, because all I needed to do was put some music to it, I called Kiris - who I'd been introduced to by a mutual friend - over, he brought his keyboard to the flat and basically, we put together an acoustic version of the song with just keys and voice. After which, once I'd put my new band together, we all got together and created this whole new version of "Sugar Woman", which is what you hear on the record. And because it's one of my favourite songs to sing and it has such a cool title, once we decided it was going to be the lead single it seemed fitting to name the EP after it too."

You can read more from B&S Assistant Editor Pete Lewis' exclusive interview with soul/blues one to watch Acantha Lang, including the story behind her cover of Nina Simone's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" and how her version came to be used in a McDonald's ad. Plus, Lang tells us about her performance roots, leaving the US and now being based in London and gives the inside track on her new EP "Sugar Women". All in the latest issue of Blues & Soul magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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