After 20 years of hibernation, The Stairs are feeling refreshed and ready to unleash their exciting hybrid of cosmic psychedelia once more. A one-off show in their hometown of Liverpool last year showed how much fans had missed their raucous bluesy 60s West Coast garage sounds. So now a small 2016 UK tour enables us once again to delight in hearing favourites from their classic cult album Mexican R’n’B as well as new material, and hopefully unexpected rarities. With just one album and a handful of cultish EPs released, they sensationally split in 1994. Now the reunion is on fire, with new material being rumoured. It’s time to climb aboard the weed bus once more.
If Ron Jeremy and Justin Timberlake had a secret love child, this is what he would be like. Initially catapulted to international fame with his wonderful 2002 album You Can Feel Me, the crown prince of misguided sexual belligerence is back. Only now he’s more soulful, more controlled and no longer break dancing in a barely-there he-string. But don’t worry ladies; he’s still bursting with charisma and lusty confidence. With an amazing voice tightly backed by funky drum-loops and pumping brass, he’s unafraid to be vulnerable or daft in his songs. He might be an unlikely player, but his swagger and blatant self-awareness will undoubtedly win you over. If you appreciate the ridiculous nature of R&B, and want to see it turned up to the max by a very talented sex-bomb, then Mr Superstar is your man.
Best known for her smash hits Young Hearts Run Free and You Got The Love, Candi Staton is celebrating 40 years since the former’s release with a very special tour. Even though she’s 76 years old, this soul queen is still capable of banging out a booty-shaking spectacular of a show. Whilst much of her legendary back-catalogue will be getting faithful renditions, expect a few reworkings and reappraisals of the hits. You don’t get to a level like hers by keeping it simple, after all. With a voice existing halfway between headlong euphoria and earth-shattering anguish, this is the sound of raw R&B emotion.
These New York City-based rockers are finally coming to Brighton for the first time with their new album. Playing together under a variety of names since they were teenagers in a small Californian town, this all-action combo blend relentless enthusiasm and big hooks. Recorded in Brooklyn through an imprint of independent funk and soul label Daptone Records, their self-titled debut perfectly showcases their fuzzed-up 21st Century take on 60s garage. Underpinned by hypnotic, intertwined guitar riffs, straining vocals and a few pop undertones keep it firmly rooted in the tradition of gritty NYC punk.
The breakout electronic live act of 2015 in Australia, these electro-soul heroes are showing no signs of slowing down. Their layered, warm production style and intricate vocal harmonies are winning fans all over the world. It’s also seen them recently hitting the main stages of Australia’s best festivals, as well as playing with acts like Rudimental, Disclosure, AlunaGeorge and Lorde. This Canberra three-piece are now household names down under, after only a handful of singles. Their output is packed with careering synths, snare claps and rich guitars, with more than enough uplifting spirit to make you smile. Now they’re having a look around Europe, to see what we’ll make of their brand of stadium-friendly electronic-pop.
Springing from the British 70s funk/soul scene, Incognito began to pioneer a sound that was not quite jazz and not quite R&B – it was just great. Now, nearly four decades later, their undying love for a good groove is still taking them around the world. While their line-up has changed over the years, the talent and consistency of output has never dipped. The current incarnation of these acid-jazz legends are still making incredible music, effortlessly transferring the genius of leader Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick’s artistic vision from studio to stage. Incognito remain the best of British soul, with their music which remains fresh, funky and accessible.
Coming from a legendary musical family (her grandmother was Maybelle Carter from the Carter Family, her mother was June Carter Cash, and her stepfather was a little-known country artist named Johnny Cash) Ms Carter has a legacy to live up to. Even though her family essentially wrote the blueprint for modern country music, she still has enough impact and energy to build her own distinctiveness. In the 70s she blended the music of her heritage with punk and new-wave. Now she’s developed an undisputable maturity to her voice, backed up with lovely, simple arrangements. Of course her family’s back catalogue is revisited and reinterpreted, but the past never overshadows her own greatness.
More than capable of putting out a couple of releases a year, Anton Newcombe’s Californian psych-rock standard-bearers are showing few signs of slowing down. The sextet pack in chiming guitars, playful 60s references and create soundtracks for imaginary films from European cinema’s golden age. As you expect, for a band named after a famous South American mass suicide, these guys operate at the fringes of populism. Yet they remain as one of the most inventive, crucial and exciting rock bands around. With over 20 years of back-catalogue to draw from and the promise of drama ever looming, this will be one of the shows of the summer.
He might be an accomplished actor (appearing in the Tupac Shakur jukebox musical Holler If Ya Hear Me), poet, activist and writer, but Williams’ primary profession is rap music. He’s capable of creating work which ignites a response and all are exposed to it, perfectly demonstrated by his fifth album Martyr Loser King. After 15 years since the release of his Rick Rubin co-produced debut, he’s been raised into the attentions of a wider audience. The anger towards corporations and abusers of power persists at the heart of his work, as does the beautiful way he finely blends poetry with alternative hip-hop. Weaving lyrics with abundant self-consciousness, he goes so much further than supplying vacuous party tunes.
This Nashville-based band have stripped their roots/blues sound down to its essence. Last year’s second full-length effort, Bones, embraces influences like Jack White, The Black Keys, My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses and Led Zeppelin, offering a sound unlike anything they have created before. They’re still rooted firmly in rock ‘n’ roll’s building blocks – country, R&B, soul and gospel, building upon the energy of each to riotous effect. Intense vocals offers and varied instrumentation produce a range of different harmonics. Accented rhythms and spiky guitar-work build over rich bass lines, making their sound distinct and agreeable. They’ve got the songs and the energy to make something happen, so check them out before they start playing stadiums.
With role models spanning David Bowie, Percy Sledge and Prince, this Alabama outfit are also paying just homage to a very rich musical history. Dates with The Rolling Stones and Mavis Staples, show stopping performances at Coachella and Bonnaroo as well as a couple of tremendous releases, have shown they’re more than capable of rising to the top. Sharply attired, full of confidence and with a brass section to die for, they’re a modern articulation of the proud Muscle Shoals tradition. You’d be forgiven for getting properly excited about this lot. Rich gospel-styled vocals, swirling warm organ chords and gritty guitars, that’s what we want to hear from our swamp rock heroes!