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English "Northern funk" band Smoove & Turrell combined elements of funk, Northern soul, and hip-hop for a classic sound with a contemporary twist, becoming a staple and a figurehead of the thriving northern English funk and soul scene in the early 2010s. The band revolves around the core duo of DJ/producer Jonathan Scott Watson (aka Smoove) and vocalist/lyricist John Turrell, both of whom already had substantial careers in music by the time they met. Smoove started out as a DJ in the early '90s before becoming a producer and remixer. He was a radio presenter, fronted the funk band Rubberneck, and released two solo albums on Acid Jazz in the mid-2000s. Before meeting Smoove, Turrell was lead vocalist of the Stevies and was voted best British male funk vocalist in a BBC radio listeners' poll. Even after teaming up with Smoove, he continued to act as a featured vocalist for numerous other artists, and released a solo album, The Kingmaker, in 2013. Smoove & Turrell's 2007 debut single "I Can't Give You Up," a split release with Torpedo Boyz on German label Club Tikka, sold out almost instantly and swiftly became a collector's item, with copies changing hands for over $200. After they finished recording their debut album Antique Soul, they sent it to British institution Jalapeno, who allegedly offered them a deal within the hour and released it in 2009. Over the course of three more albums, all released on Jalapeno -- 2011's Eccentric Audio, 2014's Broken Toys, and 2016's Crown Posada (named after Newcastle's smallest pub) -- the band refined their signature sound of classic, melodic funk and soul with hip-hop influences, all totally self-produced by Smoove in his tiny home studio. Most of their songs began with a lyric from Turrell and a lick by either him or Smoove, to which the band would add parts. On later recordings, the members of their band also contributed their own songs. Immensely proud of their Northern heritage, they referenced it often, with Turrell's cryptic, worldly-wise, lived-in lyrics being the real draw for fans and giving a longevity to the band's if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it sound, which they refused to update with contemporary pop gimmicks. ~ John D. Buchanan
2007 in Newcastle, England