Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Proven Ones - You Ain't Done

When You Ain’t Done kicks off with the needle-crackling, sinuous, tape-run-backwards 58 seconds of ‘Get Love Intro’, I think to myself – the Sixties.  More particularly in fact, I think of George Harrison and Brian Jones messing around with sitars, and George Martin experimenting with recording techniques.  But if this psychedelic noodling is a red herring, the Sixties allusion isn’t.  Because to these ears one of the characteristic moods on You Ain’t Done is the driving, soul-inflected R’n’B adopted here and there by British bands from the mid-Sixties through to the early Seventies - think the Stones when the horns kick in on ‘Rocks Off’; think Stevie Winwood
The Proven Ones - cruisin' down the blues highway
dialling up the organ on ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’; hell, think of the ‘Oo when the horns blare on ‘5.15’ if you like.  In doing so these combos were co-opting and reheating Southern soul from the likes of Otis Redding of course – who in turn covered ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Day Tripper’, keeping the yin and yang in balance, as it were.
All of which is a pretty good reference point, I reckon, for the likes of the title track, the following ‘Already Gone’, and the closing ‘Favorite Dress’, which between them draw on blasting horn injections, flaring organ and rattling piano from Anthony Geraci, Brian Templeton’s commanding voice, and Kid Ramos tossing out Keef-style choppy riffing, slide fills and economical soloing on guitar.  Oh yeah, and some on-the-money soulful backing vox from LaRhonda Steele too.  But as rousingly good as these songs are, they really hit paydirt with ‘Get Love’ itself, a seriously BIG tune with a signature twiddly guitar motif punctuating the chorus, amid scurrying, piercing guitar licks, barroom piano and flares of organ.  If you like Southern soul delivered with rockin’ blues muscle, this is for you.
In between these tentpoles though, they explore some different styles.  ‘Gone To Stay’ may not be much of a departure, being power pop soul driven by Jimi Bott’s simple, snapping snare drum and Ramos’s jangling guitar.  But ‘Whom My Soul Loves’, on which Templeton duets emotively with guest vocalist Ruthie Foster, swells from a subdued, piano-led opening with a spiritual tone into a big, rootsy affair reminiscent of both Shemekia Copeland and The Band, with twanging, slippery guitar and brief, yearning organ and sax solos.
There’s a mellower strain of soul-pop evident in both the sunny, blissed-out love song ‘Milinda’ and the easy-going show of parental wonderment captured in ‘She’ll Never Know’.  They’re pretty smooth too on the samba of the hip-swaying ‘Nothing Left To Give’, all bongos and shakers from Bott and laid back bass grooving from Willie J. Campbell.  And they manage to kill two birds with one stone on ‘I Ain’t Good For Nothin’’, which starts off in a swingin’, back-porch-with-a-beer country-soul vibe before evolving into a N’Awlins jazz workout, Geraci’s honky tonk piano vying for attention with swooping trumpet and sax, and harp from Templeton, while Ramos doubles up on the lead vocal and what sounds like lap steel guitar.
With writing credits scattered around the whole gang, and rock solid production from Jimi Bott (and the ubiquitous Mike Zito getting in the act too, apparently), this album is a mightily well-assembled piece of work – even better, I reckon, than its predecessor Wild Again.  The Proven Ones show on You Ain’t Done that they can fire on all cylinders down the R’n’B highway, cruise slowly down the strip taking in the summer night air, or park up and think deep thoughts.  Get in that automobile, go for a ride.

You Ain't Done is released by Gulf Coast Records on 17 April 2020.

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