Sonny Knight & The Lakers: I’m Still Here Review (Show Saturday!)
One result of the recent proliferation of labels focusing more intently on reissuing classic soul and funk records has been the increase of new music in these genres. Unfortunately, too often it has manifested itself in the form of milquetoast, watered down pop versions of this music, more radio-friendly than able to stand next to the classic material of the genre. Local label Secret Stash have been one of the groups that have been unearthing gems in “groove music,” as they call it, and over the last year have also been joining the hoards who have been adding new music to the classic material still being discovered. After a handful of 45s, their first LP of new material is I’m Still Here, a collection of songs with scene vet Sonny Knight backed up by the Secret Stash house band the Lakers. The LP manages to avoid the common pitfalls that others fall prey to and is a fun, confident record that highlights a talent who has been under the radar for far too long here in the Twin Cities.
I’m Still Here ventures from slow-burn soul of “I’m Still Here Part 1” and “When You’re Gone” to the organ and horn punctuated, party-inducing funk of “Hey Girl,” “Jucy Lucy,” and “Caveman.” The horns are sharp, the guitars chug forward on waves of wha pedals, the organs are lush and prominent, and most importantly, the rhythm section is tight as hell. As the band lock in and charge forward with their soulful groove, the 65-year-old Knight holds court, his voice more powerful and clear than singers half his age. A good chunk of the album is fun and irreverent party jams, like “Sonny’s Boogaloo” & “Baby, Baby, Baby,” but the album also takes serious turns on songs like their smoking cover of the Rodriguez classic “Sugarman.” The record is a good mix of fun and serious, each done with a level of skill and moxie that allow it to rise above the pack.
With soul and funk music, there is a certain point where you can play the songs correctly note-for-note, but if it doesn’t seem authentic, it sounds hollow and loses the spirit that makes the genres so great. The Lakers provide the funky canvass, and Knight’s voice conjures up the knowledge, experience, love, and pain that come with 65 years on this earth, distilled through a voice that comes galloping through the speakers. In a world of imitators, Sonny Knight, with help from the Lakers, is the real deal.
Buy the record HERE and see Sonny Knight and the Lakers Saturday night, May 3rd, at the First Ave Mainroom with Southside Desire & The Honeydogs.
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