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The Nashville Session

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Album Review

Over the last 16 years, Leeds' instrumental funk quartet the New Mastersounds have amassed a sizeable catalog: Ten studio albums, two live dates, two remix collections, and a compilation. Their records are so consistent in carrying the torch for driving, jazzy, retro funk, that it can be daunting to know where to start with them. The Nashville Session provides an answer to that quandary — with a catch.

At the end of a 2015 tour, the band entered Nashville's analog-centric Welcome to 1979 studio. In front of an invited audience they performed ten tracks from their catalog, as well as a cover of Grant Green's arrangement of James Brown's "In the Middle." The single-session evening was multi-tracked live to one-inch tape. Immediately following, the recording was mixed down to quarter-inch stereo and cut direct to vinyl lacquers. And therein lies the catch: There are 1,000 copies on wax. Period. No other formats. It's not a gimmick. And the evidence is in the record's sound. Instruments bleed through the channels into one another to provide a level of immediacy and even clarity unmatched by their other offerings.

Musically, The Nashville Session finds the New Mastersounds tighter than ever, and at a creative peak. Improvisational elements from previous versions of these tunes have become hardwired into the charts, leaving room for new directions. As a result, while the funk never takes a back seat, and jazz elements come to the fore — check Joe Tatton's organ solo and Pete Shand's bass breakdowns in opener "One Note Brown" — Eddie Roberts' chunky guitar vamp in "Burnt Back" draws a straight line through Muscle Shoals, NOLA groove, and Blue Note soul-jazz. "The Minx," with its mix of wah-wah lead guitar, rave-up bassline, Simon Allen's cracking rim-shot breaks, and swelling organ, makes it the spikiest, meanest tune in the set. The verse-chorus-verse structure in "102%" bridges the Meters' "Cissy Strut" to Jimmy McGriff's "Keep Loose." Roberts proves his mettle on the Green chart in the James Brown cover. His unshakeable rhythmic invention is matched only by his precision. Single-string leads sting and bite; they get twinned and build on one another while Shand's bassline sidles up underneath with juicy fills, and Allen's drums punch through the bottom while Tatton's B-3 bubbles and then soars.

The Nashville Session is abundant in groove quotient. At under an hour, it's the perfect length for a listening session or to kick off a party. If you find yourself sitting still while it's playing, it may be well past time to get your pulse checked.

Customer Reviews

Fantastic

Best release yet, so good

Biography

Formed: 1999 in Leeds, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '00s, '10s

One of the cornerstone acts of the U.K. retro-soul scene, the New Mastersounds play taut, old-school instrumental funk with a contemporary energy and an enthusiasm that has earned them rave reviews and led them to collaborate with a number of major acts in Britain and the United States. The New Mastersounds were formed in 1999 by guitarist Eddie Roberts, who was DJ'ing at a weekly club night in Leeds devoted to classic soul and funk. When the event moved to a new venue that covered two floors, Roberts...
Full Bio