Review: Major Funk, “Is That You?”

Major Funk - Is That You?

Over the years, I’ve had little dalliances with funk music; Sly & the Family Stone, for sure, Funkadelic, another, and a couple more besides, but in all honesty, it’s never really been my go to musical genre.  Sadly, these little lost love affairs over time were destined to become little more than buried treasure in the dormant part of my record collection.  Needless to say, therefore, when the opportunity arrived, the idea of reviewing Major Funk’s debut album, “Is That You,” didn’t exactly set my heart aflame or my pulse racing.

However, life can offer up wonderful surprises that challenge and change pre-conceived notions, and I’m happy to report that this was one such occasion.  Within the first twenty seconds of “Stand Up,” the opening track (and the band’s second single release), I was hit by two self-evident facts.  Firstly, this seven-piece band can really, really play; offering a nifty Nile Rodgers influenced guitar riff overlaid by a rock-solid brass section.  And secondly, this is underpinned by some heavy bass lines that immediately caught the ear, along with Selina Heyligers-Hare’s high octane, old-school vocals.   

Major Funk

The second track, and first single release, “Show Your Heart,” provided a nice little singer switch, with vocalist (and trumpeter) Adrian Burrill stepping up to the mic, again, over highly energetic and infectious funky grooves, setting up a pattern that would quickly become familiar as the songs flowed seamlessly from track to track.  For me, it prompted recollections of this genre, but without the stodge that I’d previously associated with this style of music.  In other words, for me, it felt unexpectedly upbeat, very fresh, and beautifully alive.  This proved to be no accident, when understanding that making this type of music doesn’t just happen.  “We make old school music with a modern spin,” shares band founder Etienne Girard. “Each chord change is a week’s worth of work.”

Girard’s explanation accounts for why Major Funk spent much of last winter holed up twenty minutes outside of Whitehorse, YT, an area known for its sun-saturated craggy hills, pine and spruce trees lining the Takhini River, rehearsing and recording the albums’ nine tracks at Green Needle Records.  It was here that the band gratefully acknowledge the vital contribution from owner, producer, and engineer, Jim Holland, as being key in researching tones and techniques to create their distinct final sounds for this record.  It was clearly time well spent, as the overall sound is superb, and for me, a bit of a life-changer, as it literally and metaphysically opens doors not only in my mind, but to my own record collection.  I hope that, given the chance, spending some time in the company of Major Funk may impact you in a way that is equally delightful and unexpected.  Released this coming Friday, I encourage you to check it out – you may very well surprise yourself too.

Music has been a lifelong passion, a journey that as a child embraced the late 60's counter culture and has lasted until the present day. Despite trying to play guitar for the best part of 45 years, to his own frustration, never much beyond the first four bars of “Stairway to Heaven.” A self-confessed vinyl junkie, his other interests include collecting music memorabilia, old Muhammad Ali fight programs, and watching film. He lives alone in Nottingham (England) and still uses the term “Groovy” - these two facts may be intrinsically connected.

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