Artist: Mighty Souls Brass Band
Album: Lift Up!
Our Verdict: 8/10
Release date: 27th January 2015
Find it at: Blue Barrel Records
Review by: Graeme Blackwell
“…a soulful, joyous, life-affirming slab of sparkling and spirited brass. You don’t want to miss it”
Those of you familiar with Skin Back Alley will have noticed that we’ve had something of a penchant for the mighty sounds of the Memphis music scene of late. With such deep roots in American music heritage, it’s no wonder; the range of extraordinary talent scattered across the city is in many ways unparalleled.
Add to that roster now the Mighty Souls Brass Band, a funky rotating collective of brass musicians and composers steeped in everything from soul to swing, jazz to funk, New Orleans funeral to world music and beyond.
Anchored by sousaphone/tuba player and composer Sean Murphy, the group have slowly but surely coalesced around his vision of a Memphis brass ensemble capable of traversing that terrain of funk, soul and world music whilst honouring the traditions of Memphis’ own historic output. Accompanied by sax soothsayer Jim Spake (Alex Chilton, Al Green, North Mississippi All-Stars amongst others) and a host of Memphis’ finest session musicians, that vision is brilliantly realised on the collective’s debut album, Lift Up!
A collection of a dozen pieces, ten originals and two traditional, the LP was largely recorded live in order to capture the vibrant essence of what the band is all about. Opening track “STS” provides jazzy swagger by the proverbial bucketload, whilst the traditional “I’ll Fly Away” pares back proceedings to a statelier southern pace. Semi title track “Lift Up Your Mighty Soul” does just that with its own particular brand of bluesy stomp n’ holler, and elsewhere across the record is an astonishing array of exquisite composition and musicianship that demonstrates just how flexible this band can be.
“That’s the great thing—one of the great things—about this group,” says saxophonist Jim Spake. “It’s so elastic, musically and in terms of personnel. Sean’s got to be there, he’s our font of craziness… but it’s like [drummer] Tom Lonardo says: We’re all just moving wind. It can be a different band on any particular night, because there are so many things we can do with the music.”
Well quite. As with the best musicians working in any genre today, for all the hard work and finely honed skill on display, Lift Up! proves to be far more than a simple showcase for such talent. It’s a soulful, joyous, life-affirming slab of sparkling and spirited brass, moving head, heart and hips in equal measure. It is at once sophisticated AND celebratory. In short, it’s a delight and you don’t want to miss it.
Find out more about Mighty Souls Brass Band at their official website. You can buy your own copy of “Lift Up!” via the Blue Barrel Records website. Check back tomorrow for a live performance video of Mighty Souls Brass Band performing track “Squir-re-ly”.