Sensual Heeding

Ladies & Gentlemen (Independent)
a.m sunday

By Tim Roberts

Very old joke (stolen from a scene in Paper Moon):

A man was riding in a streetcar, seated next to a young woman who was reading a book. Suddenly she reaches down, pulls up her skirt a little bit, then quickly rolls down one stocking, turns it inside out, pulls it back up, then does the same thing to the other leg. The man is stunned and says, "Excuse me, young lady, but have you no shame or modesty?"

"I'm so sorry," she says, "but I'm reading this romance novel and one part got me all excited that I just had to turn the hose on myself."

Halfway into a.m. sunday's Ladies & Gentlemen, you'll probably want to do the same. Whether you're wearing stockings or not.

Consisting of five of Louisville's best-known musicians - drummer Ray Rizzo, guitarists Mark "Lupe" Hamilton and Darrick Wood, bassist Matt Scobee and vocalist Suki Anderson, along with a number of guest stars including Mauriece Hamilton, Danny Kiley, Todd Hildreth and a host of others - a.m. sunday's music has a vibe that takes the best of early 1970s soul and spoons it into a skilled, slick quality of production that results in a sexy, hypnotic sound. Put another way: in Ladies & Gentlemen, you won't hear the chick-a-pow soundtrack of a porn movie, nor will you hear the theatrics of a Barry White song, but you will experience a slow and hot musical ride. It is the music of an afterglow. And the intense moments right before.

For music that is so sensual, the lyrics of the songs on Ladies & Gentlemen match up perfectly. Why wouldn't they? Take the line from "Lighthouse," where vocalist Anderson sings, "We could flicker like a matchstick / Wrap ourselves in burning flames / We could settle for some smoke rings / Or we could burn hot blue." Or "Soft Spoken Man," with its oddly syncopated backing rhythm and the line, "The tip of your tongue all touched with sweet pleasantries."

Got a hose ready?

One of the few slight exceptions to the work's overall sensuality is "Bodhisvattva Brown," a funk-rooted piece interspersed with snippets from recordings of chanting Buddhist monks and a title and character taken from music history. It's about a little boy named James with rhythm in his blood who grows into becoming a teacher, the one who, with his "Right acts, right moves / Right thoughts, right grooves," will lead us into musical bliss. At least for a little less than four minutes.

The performances from the band's individual members are, without a doubt, tight and professional. But if there can be one single star of the entire recording, it is vocalist Suki Anderson. In a time when female vocalists suffer from arpeggio fetishes, taking a single, held note and running up and down every possible scale before they sing the next one (propagated by a certain female vocalist and her "American Idol" progeny, who shall go nameless here, but who has recently scored umpteen bazillion Grammy nominations and whose initials are Mariah Carey) Anderson's full, rich tones can put more feeling into a single phrase of eight bars than many others can in an entire recording. Hers is the voice that sings you awake to greet another great morning. Or because she's ready for you again.

Taken as a whole, Ladies & Gentlemen might be a soundtrack to a seduction, which is an invitation of a sort. In it a.m. sunday invites us into a realm where all senses are awash in warmth and color and flavor.

Or, as Anderson sings in "All of the People": "Sweeter than ice cream, we fill your mouth."

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