So there I am, behind the turntables again, at a birthday party for a certain Brother of Chico Dusty. The room is full of the city's top electronic talents — the handful of people I would pay to see play records — and I actually have to be a DJ-DJ, rather than just a record collection and a font of raging animosity. The thing is, I mostly lack the physical and cognitive graces necessary to do the things DJs are supposed to do. I'm kind of ham-fisted, so no scratching, and my ADD makes counting past three an exercise in futility, so no beat-matching. The only thing I know how to do is find songs so funky they demand to be played from beginning to end.
So I'm at this party, cueing up my next slice of strange, when a certain soft-spoken, entertaining fellow (who you've probably seen drop some hella tight avant-hip-hop) leans over the table and asks, "Dude, who is this, where is it from and when the heck did it come out? This is awesome!"
"It's the Budos Band, from New York, and it came out a couple of weeks ago!"
"New York? A couple of weeks ago? No way!"
Yeah, to the uninitiated it might sound like it came from a foreign country 40 years ago, but The Budos Band's brand of deep, jazzy world-soul is entirely homegrown, entirely modern. Hailing from the same Daptone Records stable of musicians that have given us this century's most historically minded hotness with acts like Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band, The Budos Band aren't just another group of hippie hacks that bought some hand drums. The Budos Band are the real deal, Holyfield — a band smart enough and strong enough to make music that stands alongside their Ethio-jazz and Afrobeat influences rather than strangling the life out of them.
Their latest album, Budos Band III — from which the above conversation sprang — finds the band in rare form with tighter arranging, better playing and more finely tuned songcraft than ever before. Frankly, it's the best thing they've ever done — but this is the kind of band that gets better with each go-around. Hell — and this is going to sound mighty heretical — this might even be the best thing yet to come out of the whole Daptone crew.
Now before you shiv me with a sharpened CD of I Learned the Hard Way, please keep in mind that this is no slight to the awesomeness of Ms. Jones or the badassness of Mr. Bradley — who are both tremendous — but I'll take extended horn solos over an actual person singing any day. Does that make me weird? (Maybe in Nashville, where most folks are part of the Cult of the Golden Throat, and melisma is as prevalent as the bubonic plague in 14th-century Europe — and to these ears, just as unpleasant.)
An anti-singer stance is a rare thing in this town — and maybe a tad contradictory — but what's not to like about The Budos Band and their brassy breakbeat explorations of sounds beyond these shores? We all love a player who can play the hell out of their instrument, right? Well, The Budos Band has 10 of 'em, all experts in achieving out-of-this-world sounds. And together, they operate as one of the most cohesive, fluid units you're ever likely to have pumping through your ear buds. And songs! This town loves songs, especially great songs! You'll find plenty of those in the Budos oeuvre. Sure, they don't have words, but theses are some of the of the most infectious earworms available on album anywhere — just try and shake "Unbroken, Unshaven" out of your head. Plus, these songs are great for convincing the discerning DJs in the room that maybe you're not so ham-fisted after all.
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