Consummate key tickler andsideman deluxe Nigel Hall is released his debut offering, Ladies & Gentlemen… on Friday the 13th of November. The man really needs no introduction unless you’re impervious to the funky soul still making its way into the eardrums of those in the know.
Hall’s a mainstay, with thunderous keyboard klanks and a voice just as sweet and regal as a young Marvin Gaye. He is also a hired gun to Warren Haynes, Soul Rebels, and a constant contributor to producer and guitarist Eric Krasno’s ventures with other artists. He's also part of Krasno’s staple funky jam outfits Lettuce and the incomparable Soulive. Krasno’s no slouch in the producer chair either, touting stints with artists like Justin Timberlake, Norah Jones, and Aaron Neville as feathers in that proverbial cap. But he’s equally if not more dangerous with a hunk of wood and strings strapped around his neck and shoulder.
Although Ladies & Gentlemen… may be a bit short on original compositions -- there are five originals and five choice cover arrangements -- this album that was captured across five-plus years at a few studios in NYC and New Orleans, is sheer genius.
Quintessentially, a cover of the Roy Ayers-penned “Try, Try, Try,” as performed by Ramp, has more funk than a three day-old catfish in a Georgia heatwave. That’s the beauty of funk and R&B, it’s written about the good times and who you’re hopefully ending the night of said good times with.
Hall shows his range on this debut, too. Album closer “Call On Me,” with its quasi-muted horn section, displays Hall’s falsetto in a cool, laid-back shuffle, the tasteful end to the party and the final ploy at the young ladies' affection, for the wee hours. The crown jewel is “Lay Away,” which features an appearance by everyone’s favorite crate digger/drummer/okay player, Ahmir Thompson -- better known as the fellow with the pick in his afro behind the drum kit of the Roots. Also here is that cat Ivan Neville from New Orleans, who incorporated his own Hammond B3 klank style with a small band from across the pond called the Rolling Stones. New Orleans funk royalty extends that honor to this new purveyor, even if he may be a transplant from Washington, D.C.
Save your obligatory Best of 2015 list. Hall’s late entry should be on more than a few (mine included). The funk, rhythm and blues, and soul is the roots of "roots music" right along with blues, bluegrass, country, punk, and such. Without any of the foundations there would be no structure to house all our favorite oddball sounds and left-of-center musical interests. There’s plenty of room for ass shakin’ and tempestuous head nodding among the ethers of No Depression. Y’all make room. (+words by scott zuppardo+)
*Originally published at No Depression 11/13/15*