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Burn It Down (feat. Charles Walker)

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Album Review

Nashville's retro-soul band the Dynamites has two things going for it. The first is its leader, guitarist Leo Black (real name Bill Elder), who writes new material steeped in the traditions of 1960s and '70s soul and funk, giving the group a repertoire that is familiar but not too familiar. The second is featured lead singer Charles Walker, the 65-year-old soul veteran who gives the Dynamites a direct connection to the music and time they honor. These are, however, also the elements that the Dynamites have going against them. Black's basic template is the James Brown band, but he also creates music and arrangements that recall Curtis Mayfield ("Can't Have Enough"), the smooth soul of various vocal groups ("I Got Love [For You]"), and even early-'60s Jamaican rocksteady ("The Real Deal"). But every time he brings to mind some established artist or style of the glory days of R&B, he competes with it unsuccessfully (a problem that is more apparent on record than in concert, admittedly). And while Walker has the authentic sound of a soul singer of his era, it's no accident that he never became a star. He lacks the quality of uniqueness that set apart each of the great soul singers and made them memorable. It's perhaps not surprising, then, that the album's mix does not favor him. He is audible, certainly, but no more so than the rhythm section or the horns. It's appropriate that the billing for this band is the Dynamites Featuring Charles Walker, not Charles Walker & the Dynamites, because that's what Walker sounds like on this disc, a featured performer rather than a dominating one. Thus, an album by the group is basically a calling card or souvenir of their live show more than a standalone entity.


Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Neo-soul and deep funk band the Dynamites were founded by songwriter/guitarist Bill Elder, using the stage name Leo Black, in Nashville, the group serving as a backup band for veteran singer Charles "Wigg" Walker, a performer in his sixties who had been performing since the late '50s. (The rest of the lineup included organists Tyrone Dickerson and Charles Treadway; a horn section consisting of Jon-Paul Frappiér on trumpet and saxophonists Jonathan Jackson and Chris West; and the rhythm section of...
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Burn It Down (feat. Charles Walker), The Dynamites
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