The Upshot: Funk ‘n’ soul served up raw and steaming by the premiere Minneapolis artist whose name is not Prince—and it’s a live platter, to boot. Get down!
BY FRED MILLS
Not too many artists would have the balls to use as their stage-entrance music Led Zep’s “Heartbreaker”—and by transmogrifying the decidedly metallic tune’s signature opening riff into something significantly more funkified and swinging, also ensuring that a percentage of listeners would scratch their heads and think, hmm, this is kinda familiar, but…. Still, if anyone’s qualified to boast about having an impressive set of musical huevos, it’s Minneapolis brutha Sonny Knight who, on a timely live-in-concert followup to 2014’s smoking I’m Still Here additionally covers icons big (Leadbelly, on an unusual adaptation of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” aka “In the Pines,” which of course was also tackled by Nirvana), huge (The Beatles, via “Day Tripper), and respectively large, if cult-heroish (Rodriguez’s wonderful “Sugar Man,” which earns an uptempo oomph at their hands; Rodriguez is discussed HERE on our site) and pays tribute to some fellow sixties soulmen, among them Maurice McKinnies and the Champions (a rousing, introducing-the-band, JB’s referencing “Sock A Poo Poo”) and The Amazers (the super-silky “It’s You For Me,” penned by one Napoleon Crayton and originally produced by none other than Curtis Mayfield).
All the above name-dropping aside, the sheer power of the 2014 studio album (also issued by the soul survivors at Secret Stash Records) and its resulting high profile for Knight is what made this live ‘un possible, and the December 18-19 homecoming shows at Minneapolis venue the Dakota Jazz. Shows were accordingly riotous. In our original review of I’m Still Here we characterized veteran musician Knight and his young band of funkateers’ work as “a retro-soul blowout of epic proportions that will no doubt please fans of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kinds, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields et al… [doing] their traditional-tilting, seventies-inspired soul/funk with the agility of wizened veterans.” That all holds true, and then some, for Do It Live—just check out the live incarnation of hi-nrg/blues-rock, atavistic dance instructional “Cave Man,” or the positively swinging, horns-centric “Through With You,” or the flat-out stanky all-and-response stomp that is the band’s signature live track, “Sonny’s Boogaloo.”
There’s plenty more on evidence here, from Muscle Shoals and Memphis Stax/Volt to down ‘n’ dusty Lone Star State fonk and modified Afro-beat that’ll strike a chord among Fela fans. It’s all 100% Knight and his Lakers, though, and in 2015 one of the best calling cards for a live act as one can imagine. Who needs a booking agent or a manager when you’ve got a record like this? Shoot, issue it on vinyl, rename it Sonny Comes Alive! and you’ve got a whole new 2-LP live album craze in the making…
DOWNLOAD: “Cave Man,” “Sock A Poo Poo,” “Sonny’s Boogaloo,” “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”