funk in the pocket

Brother Sister (Delicious Vinyl)

The Brand New Heavies

By Allen Howie

The Brand New Heavies (Simon Bartholomew on guitar, N'Dea Davenport on vocals, Jan Kincaid on drums and keyboards, and Andrew Levy on bass) come across like a leaner, jazzier Sly and the Family Stone. The funk may be trimmed back a little, but the eclectic embrace of styles and the positive push to the lyrics remain.

Take the title song, a jaunty call for self-reliance that glides along on Davenport's sweetly soulful vocals, breezy horn charts and brisk percussion. Or the even more upbeat "Dream On Dreamer," with its embrace-your-dreams message laid over a smart mix of West Coast jazz and Philly soul.

The instrumentals "Ten Ton Take" and "Snake Hips" sound like James Brown's band stretching out and flexing its muscles. "Mind Trip" explores a deliciously relaxed soul groove, while "Fake" is funky party music, with Mike Smith's fat sax lines throwing their weight around and the band's ensemble percussion keeping things moving.

And if radio would surrender its format fetish for even a few days, the burnished melody of "Spend Some Time" would be all over the airwaves, with the luscious swirl of "Back to Love" following close behind.

The Brand New Heavies blend fluid vocals and stippled percussion with sweeping melodies and a sure-footed feel for a groove. If a few of the songs here seem to go on a little too long at first, be patient. Another listen or two will reveal subtle shadings that draw the listener further into the pulsating mix. From that point on, The Brand New Heavies will have you in their pocket. You could do a lot worse.