BY FRED MILLS
As wince-inducing as the term “neo-soul” is when categorizing current-day practitioners of classic soul (imagine someone describing a young, fresh-faced hardcore band as “neo-punk”), it seems to have stuck, although when I hear it uttered I immediately think “watered-down,” as in, “Alicia Keys.” And “retro-soul,” while marginally better, seems vaguely dismissive, as if the process of drawing inspiration from an earlier era (say, the early ‘60s) is less “artistic” than coming up with your own sound in a vacuum. By my way of thinking, you either is or you ain’t “soul”: if anyone tries to claim, for example, that the Dap-Kings aren’t worthy of being discussed in the same breath as the Mar-Keys or Booker T & the MG’s, they’re itchin’ for a fight.
I bring this up because Detroit’s Third Coast Kings, though relatively young, clearly know how to walk the walk and talk the talk when it comes to serving up steaming plates of unvarnished fonk. They’ve already earned the admiration of current soul hero Charles Bradley and the praise of BBC deejay Craig Charles, and it’s not hard to hear why: from West Grand Boulevard’s opening salvo “Ice Cream Man” of kinetic chicken-pickin’ guitar, surging organ and JB’s-worthy jabbing horns and the swinging, swaggering strut that is “Get Some; Leave Some” (featuring co-lead vocalist Sean Ike fairly smacking his lips), to the cinematic Blaxploitation vibe of the title track and the undeniably sexy dance invocation of “Just Move” (this one featuring the other vocalist, Michelle Camilleri), there’s not a wasted moment or superfluous flourish on the entire album.
File the Third Coast Kings alongside their peers on labels like Daptone and Secret Stash, sure, but be advised that this stuff is every bit as vital as the music being made back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. (Consumer note: don’t eject the CD at the end of the 12-song program as there are two uncredited bonus tracks included.)
DOWNLOAD: “Get Some; Leave Some,” “West Grand Boulevard,” “Lead Foot”