The Whitefield Brothers, In The Raw

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
One part roaming Afropop, two parts R&B

Hiding out under a generic alias, the German rough-funk group Poets of Rhythm deliver a record that's one part roaming Afropop and two parts gritty American R&B. It's a natural mix: at the peak of their careers, Fela Kuti and James Brown enjoyed a reciprocal relationship, dropping in on one another's gigs to steal ideas and refashioning them to suit their own ends. The Whitefield Brothers camp out at that same stylistic crossroads. The rhythms on In the Raw roll slow and steady, filling up the spaces without elbowing rudely to the fore. They're suggestions, not commands, and they leave ample empty space for groaning sax and twitching organ. "Thunderbird" is weighty, groggy funk, free-form horns bleating and bawling over creeping bass. "Weiya (Serengeti Beat)" drops bits of tribal chanting between thundering marching-band percussion and the stabbing guitars and scrambling trumpets in "Sol Walk" imagines the Meters scoring Foxy Brown. Like all the SoulFire releases, In the Raw works because it sounds like it was recorded 35 years ago. In the Raw is not so much an approximation as it is a dead-on reproduction.