I am always on the search for good soul music. I have been enamored with many of the classic soul acts of the 60s and 70s for pretty much as long as I can remember. My great grandmother was in love with Marvin Gaye, and that is what sparked it all. Soul music today isn’t quite what you would find in the 70s in my opinion. While it is still a great genre of music, I feel many modern soul albums borrow more from R&B than classic soul or funk.
Black Pumas absolutely blew me away with my first listen to their music. This debut is essentially a callback to that great pioneering era of soul music, saturated with tons of Stevie Wonder and Gaye influence, while maintaining an incredibly unique and modern sound. Couple this with powerful rock moments and a touch of Ghostface Killah, and you have something special.
The vocal delivery is out of this world, and the instruments call back to the peak of soul music. Silky smooth bass lines go hand-in-hand with the crisp percussion, providing a strong backbone for the psychedelic guitars and the plucky keys that accentuate this album into a realm of its own. “Colors” is likely to be on a lot of favorites-of-the-year lists, hitting all the previously mentioned categories particularly well.
Black Pumas is the new brainchild of Grammy Award-winning guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada and relative newcomer to the scene Eric Burton. After meeting in Austin, Texas, the two got to work with the desire to make a classic soul album for the new age. It seems as if the duo has struck gold, winning a Song of the Year award for their debut single. They have since been coronated as the best new band in Austin, and I’m sure the awards will keep coming.
Many publications have called them the newest group to watch, and I’ll throw my hat in on that as well. Black Pumas is an instant favorite of the year for me, and I’m sure I will keep coming back to this album until they inevitably follow it up. The vocals of Burton are equal parts enchanting and haunting. His range is absolutely incredible- hitting low rumbles and piercing highs with ease. The pitch control he exhibits over his voice is even more impressive, warbling through ranges in a way you just don’t hear often.
Black Pumas is just as interesting instrumentally as it is vocally. The influence in the guitar playing ranges from blues to soul to psychedelic rock. The use of a wah-wah pedal crops up on occasions, adding to the classic sound on songs like “Confines”. The drumming is sharp and mostly rock oriented, although a touch of jazz does shine through on occasion. The vibrant keyboard playing that accompanies the entire album adds another bright layer and really stands out in the solos that permeate most of the songs. Many tracks also feature the addition of horns. The additions in “Touch The Sky” really stand out as a favorite to me.
Black Pumas couldn’t have had a stronger debut in my opinion. There are very few flaws to find in this album, if any at all. I certainly don’t have any complaints. Burton and Quesada have the potential to go anywhere from here. Quesada is an award winning producer and the sound he and Burton have created is easily accessible to just about anyone who just likes good music. Nobody can predict the future, but my best guess is that Black Pumas is just getting started and we will be hearing much more from them in the future.