-- By Eric J. Lawrence, KCRW Music Librarian and DJ
Australia’s finest purveyors of funky sounds return with Medicine Man, their 5th full-length album, and, as might be expected, it proves to be an expertly crafted blend of old and new R&B styles, with some killer pop twists for good measure. They’ve been doing much of the same for the past decade, and while others now harvest many of the same musical fields, from newcomers like Mayer Hawthorne and Nick Waterhouse to vets like Raphael Saadiq and the whole Daptone empire, the Bamboos never fail to impress with new directions.
In the case of Medicine Man, bandleader Lance Ferguson and his mates are joined by a variety of talented vocalists, providing a fresh and distinctive punch to every track that makes each one stand proudly on its own and creates a “greatest hits”-like effect when one listens to the whole album. SoCal hero Aloe Blacc croons to a classic Motown sound on the opening track, “Where Does the Time Go?” Australian favorite Daniel Merriweather lends a Lenny Kravitz-like vocal to the pulsing pop of “I Never.” Megan Washington gives an understated, but sultry take on a cover of dub-step champion James Blake’s “The Wilhelm Scream,” reimagined as an orchestrated soul ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Al Green album. And Tim Rogers echoes the Rev. Green himself on the Black Keys-esque song, “I Got Burned.”
Bits and pieces of other soul greats, from the Meters to the MGs and from the Brand New Heavies to Amy Winehouse (who longtime Bamboos collaborator Kylie Auldist pays tribute to in the album’s closer, “Window”), are liberally sprinkled throughout the record, giving the band’s sharply-produced contemporary perspective the flavor of the best of yesteryear. Clearly, the Bamboos’ funky medicine goes down very easy and may prove to be the grooviest soul record you’ll hear all year.
Medicine Man will be available to stream on demand from June 4th through June 11, 2012.