Strut ScrollerNo, seriously, is there really anything better than a bunch of stonkingly good musicians at the top of their game just doing what they do best; playing the tunes they want to play and having a great time as well? They’re just doing their own thing; no label affiliation and everything controlled from Strut Central, so how do they do it? It’s easy; they are the absolute mutt’s nuts. Individually, they’ve worked with just about everyone, live or on record, and, as a unit, they’re funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter.

The unusual suspects forming Brother Strut are Paul Turner (bass), Frankie Tontoh (drums), Otha Smith (guitar), Sam Tanner (vocals and keys) and Stevie Jones (sax and vocals). I’m not going to tell you what they’ve all done in the past; you can find that out for yourself, and this is about what they’re doing now. And that’s releasing their second album, “What We got Together”, this week (Friday April 8th) on their own label.

The album’s a joyous mix of all of their sixties and seventies funk, soul and r’n’b (when that actually meant rhythm and blues) influences and there are even some Latin beats thrown in as well. When the opening track “Chri$$ie” fires in like the Average White Band covering “Funkin’ for Jamaica” you just know this is going to be an interesting ride.

The album’s not big on songs, as such, focusing more on gargantuan grooves with full-band chants in classic funk style, but when the songs do come along they’re belters, with Sam Tanner proving that he’s not just a stunning keyboard player; he has a superb soul voice as well. “Everyday Joe”, with its seventies wah-wah guitar and story of a refusal to fit in with the nine-to-five, and the lovely “Song for Marvin” (and we’re talking Gaye not Hagler here) are as good as anything I’ve heard this year.

The musicianship’s so strong that changes of style present no problem; the Latin-inflected “De Donde Eres” and “Love and Only” are totally natural and convincing with some great percussion adding authentic accents. The ensemble playing is tight as everyone locks on to the funk grooves, while the fills and solos are outstanding examples of musicianship that don’t sound like a ‘most-notes-to-the-bar’ competition.

This is one that’s going to hit you right on the funky bone; don’t miss it.

What We Got Together” is out on Friday April 8th and the band is touring the UK in May and June . You shouldn’t miss the album or the tour.

And just as a special treat, have a look at this as well:

 

Mollie TitleIt’s about a year since we first picked up on Mollie Marriot, when she popped up doing backing vocals (with Izzy Chase-Phillmore) for Jim Stapley on his debut album and at a London gig last year. It was obvious to anyone who didn’t have tin ears that she had an outstanding voice. What we didn’t know at the time, but discovered after a few gigs, was that she also has at least an album’s worth of great songs which she’s worked on with a bunch of co-writers that includes Jim Stapley, Sam Tanner of Brother Strut and Judie Tzuke. Lyrically, it’s not always comfortable because it deals with some troubled times in Mollie’s life, but the arrangements and performances create positive feelings from negative experiences. And she’s put a phenomenal live band together as well.

“A Million Miles” is her third solo single (following “Ship of Fools” and “Transformer”) and it might just be the one to make the breakthrough, ahead of her debut album “The Truth is a Wolf” which is due for release in early 2016. The song opens with Johnson-Jay’s shimmering guitar weaving in and out of Sam Tanner’s trickling keyboards evoking a seventies Californian drivetime feel before Mollie’s voice comes in, gently at first, with just a suggestion of Stevie Nicks and the story of an unravelling relationship. As the instrumental intensity builds, the vocal goes up through the gears from pure and clear to powerful and emotional, building to a climax before fading to a gentle finish. It’s a song that takes you on an emotional journey, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Mollie Marriott’s made a lot of great decisions in the last couple of years; she’s surrounded herself with superb musicians and collaborators who happen to be lovely people, and she’s created a very tight little family that just happens to be a musical powerhouse. If anyone can achieve popular success while pursuing their own artistic vision in today’s music business, my money’s on Mollie.

“A Million Miles” is out on MITA Records on October 23rd.