Whereas Band of Lovers drew us in with their positive, orchestral folk, New York City’s Sunshine – the duo of Amy Priya Santos and Steve Ferrara – lure us with their classical approach to folk, blues, and jazz. Supported by a talented backing band, The Knights – who are Reverend Crawford Forbes (trumpet, vocals), Dylan Thurston (piano, melodica, vocals), Mike Lambert (electric guitar, piano, vocals), and Pitti (drums) – the band is set to release their new album, Sunshine Nights, tomorrow.
The album is filled with music you would expect to hear in the southern US and in the small bars that litter the great American music cities, such as New Orleans, Nashville, Memphis, and Athens, Georgia. Their intent is to pay homage to these great genres and not reinvent them, bringing the sounds of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s to a new generation of music fans, and they do so successfully.
The opening two tracks are really two halves of the same song. “Moonbeam Days” and “American Folklore” have the haunting, captivating sounds of deep south blues. The former sets the mode with the choral echos in the background and the sound of the steel and acoustic guitars before transitioning into the knee-slapping blues of “American Folklore”, which resembles Woody Guthrie’s storytelling of the working class family’s hardships. The lead single from the album, “Bowl O’ Cherries”, is classic folk – a jitterbug of a tune that would be perfect in the 1940s and wouldn’t be out of a place on the soundtrack of O Brother Where Art Thou.
“Back in the Western Hemisphere” is similarly a toe-tapping number. Its swing-jazz sound beckons to an era of where dance partners never let go of another as they merrily tossed and swung each other around. The piano-jazz track, “The Train”, sounds contemplative yet it is light-hearted. Recalling misguided advice and lessons, the song has one of the best lines of any song this year – All them John Cusack movies from my youth never prepared me for now. Every man in his late-20s to 40s probably can relate to Ferrara, who achingly sings this refrain.
“I Got Myself a Workin’ Man” is the deep, smoky jazz that most would associate with little jazz clubs. Santos perfectly paces the track with her alluring and at times seductive voice. As she basically sends “chin flicks” at the “hipster lovers”, you can’t help image that she likes to play hard to get even if she has a working man.
There are, of course, folk numbers. The highlight is “Hard-Hearted Fool”, an unassuming, bubble-gum folk track. With its melody that might induce swaying and the beautiful harmonies of Santos and Ferrara, it’s a lovely tune.
The chemistry among Sunshine and The Knights is unmistakable on Sunshine Nights. Every instrument, every vocal, every note perfectly complement one another. No single individual shines through but instead the full collective stars. To hear them live would probably result in a spontaneous line dance or maybe even a conga line given the rich, enticing sound of the collective.
Sunshine Nights will be out on Tuesday, February 10. You can pick it up at their Bandcamp site, and the first 1000 people to order it there will get it for free. “Bowl O’ Cherries” is below, and you can follow the band at the usual social media sites.
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