It was only a couple of months back that Richmond VA's Spacebomb label released what sounded like one of 2015's brightest prospects in the debut album from Natalie Prass. The inspired grand master behind the label is Matthew E White a musician who taps into old Stax and Memphis music whilst giving it a shining contemporary edge . Having reviewed and enjoyed his wonderful debut the "Big Inner" over the last two years the prospect of new record came with onions and relish. The good news is that "Fresh Blood" does not disappoint and in some respects is a much more mature album than its predecessor.
The fact that White has musicians behind him who could play Stravinsky's "The Firebird" on spoons and still make it sound great is a real bonus. The Spacebomb house band is a finely tuned soul machine which builds on White's compositions and takes them from good to grand. The 32 year old White has an acute musicians ear and nowhere is this clearer than on the mighty "Rock n roll is cold" a track so full of joyous verve, infectious chorus back-up and rolling piano that it positively dares your boldly parts to resist. Other tracks swimming in an old Memphis stew also work brilliantly. The album closer "Love is deep" could have been performed with equal measure by artists like Winston Pickett. It is a beautifully economical and well constructed track which could act as a useful point of entry into the wider album. "Holy Moly" is based on spoken lyrics and the track builds to a proper good old Gospel soul finish. Also falling into this category is the sumptuous opener "Take care of my baby" which is an utter delight. Furthermore "Tranquility" proves that White can match that vintage sound of yore which Curtis Mayfield once dominated. Within this tight formula White is capable of serving up classic songs with relative ease. Tracks like "Vision" shuffle along with an underpinning soul vibe that is inherently funky and well paced. Perhaps if there is one complaint it is that the quiet power of the music rarely scores highly in the excitement stakes for all its admirable clarity and referential linage,
Matthew E White has once again taken the music of soul pioneers and proven that he and his Spacebomb compadres can deliver a seductive and accurate modren soul vision for this timeless music. "Fresh Blood" is an album which builds on the themes of his debut "Big Inner" and proves that this music packs a punch. As the Evening Standard have argued "If his debut, Big Inner, was a cult classic, this is tasty enough for mass consumption, a sweet spot between Isaac Hayes and Bon Iver". Seek this album out and while you are at it also extend a listen to Natalie Prass since with records of this quality Spacebomb are clearly the leading label of 2015 to date.
Review by Red on Black