Menahan Street Band, The Crossing

Michaelangelo Matos

By Michaelangelo Matos

on 11.06.12 in Reviews
Juicy tunes, forthright and irrestible grooves

It makes sense if you know the name Daptone Records before you know the label’s artists – there, the retro-R&B aesthetic comes first. There are exceptions, though, and along with Sharon Jones and Antibalas, the Thomas Brenneck-led Menahan Street Band is a big one. It’s telling that Menahan’s second album inaugurates a new sub-label, Dunham – clearly, these lush, full arrangements recall classic Philly soul far more than they do the James Brown-style funk Daptone made its name on. Though Brenneck, along with everyone else in the lineup, has a hand in multiple other Daptone affiliates, the two albums with him as leader rank among the camp’s most consistently rich. And just because you can hear Philly in the mix doesn’t mean The Crossing is anywhere near disco. In fact, the album’s second half veers into blues (the slide guitar that keynotes “Seven Is the Wind”) and spaghetti western atmosphere (“Bullet for the Bagman”). Throughout, the tunes are juicy, the grooves forthright and irresistible, the instrumental décor lively. Sure it’s retro. But that’s not nearly all it is.