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Just by looking at his pseudonym, it's clear that soul music has never been far from the surface in John "JB" Bigham's mind. On three previous albums, he's combined it with blues, funk, folk, and rock to become a sort of contemporary Sly Stone without the horns, erratic behavior, and drug problems. A sabbatical from the road during his fiancée's pregnancy provided the time and space to redefine his direction. The result is a deep soul recording steeped in the '70s style of keyboard bass, where melodies are as essential as the groove. Influences from Al Green to Curtis Mayfield and Earth, Wind & Fire are evident throughout, but it seems that Bigham is aiming at a Lenny Kravitz approach with his blend of pop, rock, and R&B, minus Kravitz's harder psychedelic edge. There's a homespun vibe -- provided partially by ever present acoustic guitar -- that runs under these songs and belies their overdubbed creation. Liner notes show that drums and keyboards were added to Bigham's vocal and guitar parts after the fact and in different studios, but the final product sounds remarkably organic. Hooks abound, especially on the title track, as melodic a piece of soul-rock as he's ever recorded. But it's on a soul nugget such as the sultry "How Can I" where he reaches R&B nirvana on a Spinners-styled arrangement that could easily slot into a Super Sexy Soul Songs of the Seventies collection. Prince has been here and done that, but Bigham's music is more roots-oriented, especially when he adds deep Delta blues acoustic guitar to the edgy "My Brother," an atmospheric gem driven by a Billy Preston-era clavinet. The same goes for the sexed-up "Strawberry Lady," a tough chunk of acoustic guitar and handclap-based funk that rides a tough rhythm for four terrific minutes. Bigham gets introspective on "Mama's in the Kitchen," perhaps a follow-up to the "Strawberry Lady" who is now giving birth to his baby, making him aware of his new responsibilities but happy to have them. He does this with an instantly hummable hook made for concert singalongs. The album even expands into '70s power pop circa T. Rex on the grinding "I Love It," a meaty slab of glam that wouldn't sound out of place on The Slider. Despite forays into various retro genres, this is a contemporary-sounding set that shows Bigham to have the songwriting, performing, and arranging chops to take him to a wider commercial acceptance that has heretofore eluded him.
|Label:||Yellow Dog Records|
Performance CreditsSoul of John Black Primary Artist
Nikka Costa Background Vocals
Oliver Charles Drums
Jonell Kennedy Background Vocals
John A. Bigham Guitar,Vocals
Adam McDougall Keyboards
Technical CreditsDuke Ellington Inspiration
Christopher Thomas Composer
Brooke Barnett Graphic Design
John A. Bigham Composer,Producer,Cover Art