MONTREAL BASED BLUES/ROCK/SOUL DUO GROOVE KINGS RETURNS WITH A FIERY, SIMMERING NEW ALBUM, ‘BLOOD RED’
The quirky and unexpected success of the explosive blues rock and R&B duo Groove Kings is proof that even those seemingly anonymous club dates can lead to fruitful musical connections.
One night a few years back, Montreal based songwriter, producer and guitarist Howard Forman was jamming with a soul band in a local hotspot when the manager approached him between sets and told him there was a girl who wanted to sit in. “Usually,” says the multi-faceted musician, who once upon a time was a session musician in R&B mecca Muscle Shoals, “this means some white chick who wants to be Aretha will warble ‘Respect’ like a squeaky door hinge.” Irene Marc’s powerhouse rendition of ‘Chain of Fools’ not only peeled the paint off the walls—it also sparked an exciting long term partnership as Groove Kings and the release of their highly anticipated new album Blood Red.
Engineered by Felix (Quebec Grammy) winner Rob Heaney (Kevin Parent, Isabelle Boulay, Bet E & Stef) and Grammy/Gemini/Juno winner Denis Nomandeau (Zappa Plays Zappa, Cowboy Junkies, Billy Talent, Tragically Hip), the supremely soulful, blues-tinged, simmering 10 track set showcases Irene’s powerful pipes and tremendous stylistic range. From chilled-out R&B vibes to blues rock numbers, the songs are crisp, catchy, melodic adult pop gems that would find a welcome home in a CD collection that featured Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse or Annie Lennox.
The collection’s mature themes center on real life relationships, personal yet universal emotions and the lessons that life throws at all of us. Jazz inflected trumpet and soulful horn sections bring an uptown feel to a couple of the tracks, while sizzling Latin beats perfectly complement Howard’s smoking, Hendrix and Duane Allman-influenced electric guitar fire. The atmospheric and deeply textured title track looks beyond the difficult personalities we encounter in the world to focus on the need for meaningful human connections. “I’m The Rain” underwent a fascinating transformation from its original arrangement as a complicated jazz-blues chart to a live in the studio, gentle and whispery, “eyes closed” kind of blues. Meanwhile, the seductive rocker “What’s Real” is all about being on the level and saying what you feel.
The album title may be colorful and racy, but Blood Red is engagingly familiar for all the right reasons, fresh and contemporary yet delightfully cool and old school. Globe and Mail’s review of a previous recording by Groove Kings is just as applicable to the duo’s latest: “...a feel for classic soul and R&B [that] wouldn't sound out of place on a Stax or Atlantic album from the late '60s.”