If you’ve ever been a fan of soul music, take note.
I, myself, spent 10 years at KCBX, every Saturdays evening, blasting rhythm & blues and funk into the atmosphere as the Night Train, and I can whole claim you’ll want to hear Mayer Hawthorne’s album, Strange Arrangement. Scroll down to get a taste and a review of his recent album. But more importantly, he’ll be playing at Downtown Brew this Sunday, September 13th. Not only that, but we scored a soul DJ set from him earlier in the day at 3pm. This may seem like a lot of fuss over someone who’s debut record just arrived this week, but he’s already won the hearts of NPR, and I think he’ll spark your enthusiasm too.
The story goes that Ann Arbor native Andrew Cohen, a DJ/producer and member of Athletic Mic League and Now On, began recording neo-soul tunes as a little side project for friends and family, layering in all the instruments himself, then singing all the vocal parts, and then mixing the tracks with a spare and lightly funky breakbeat sensibility. The result of all this was a simply stunning re-imagining of the classic soul and Motown sounds of the late ’60s and early ’70s, so well executed that Peanut Butter Wolf, head of the L.A. hip-hop label Stones Throw, initially thought he was listening to remixes of obscure old soul singles when he first heard Cohen’s demos. Wolf signed Cohen, who was now billing himself as Mayer Hawthorne (combining his middle name and the name of his hometown street), to a recording contract on the strength of songs like “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out,” which sounds like a long-lost Al Green track lightly reassembled for the 21st century.
His debut, A Strange Arrangement, is a wonderful, joyous delight from start to finish, managing to be both a nostalgic-sounding soul facsimile and a fresh urban retro dance listen all in one package.
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