It’s like listening to the Doobie Bros, Steely Dan, and Swing Out Sister all rolled up in one. Routes to Riches, the debut album from UK soul funk outfit, Mama’s Gun, is the kind of hidden gem that you smugly gush over to friends to keep that street cred as the go-to music connoisseur (Oh, you haven’t heard it? Awww). A monumental achievement in production, arrangement, and execution, the musicianship present here is the kind rarely experienced, but one that soul fans-hell, music fans-are always thirsty for. Like the best drug dealers, these UK musicians give you just enough to get you high, but consistently leave you wanting more.
If someone tries to tell you there isn’t any more good soul music, just press play on “Let’s Find A Way,” “Big Betty” or “You Are The Music.” If they miss classic rock, rock that once had a bit of soul, route them to the past funk of “Psycho Territory,” the sinful rock of “Rico,” or the luscious “Chasing Down Shadows.” If they just want to feel good about the beauty that man can craft when focused on art instead of commerce, musicality instead of trend, just let them play this project from beginning to end. It isn’t a stretch to say that this debut is as memorable as the Erykah Badu classic they’re named after.
From the percussive carnival celebration of “Finger On It” to the sheer romantic sweep of the opening strings yielding to the Motown backbeat on “You Are the Music,” the five-piece band deftly displays an uncanny ear for melody, harmony, and a deliriously energizing groove. The bass thump, tickled keys, and brilliantly unanticipated transitions of “Rico” alone are a primer in the kind of old school rock that once played to audiences of every complexion. There are some pilfered chords here and there from the ‘70s funk and disco era, such as the guitar chords on “Big Betty” or the sick-to-death, Christmas-time transition on “Let’s Find A Way.” There are also song approaches reminiscent of artists we know, as with the swaying, Take 6 harmonies of “Sketches” and the Prince take on the electric “Supa Sneakers.” However, on a buffet of so many eclectic sounds, these familiarities prove a welcome invitation to the Mama’s Gun experience, offering listeners comforting bread crumbs along the path of their psychedelic dreams.
Over the last year, there are a few songs that have already broken out in the UK and Japan, including “Finger On It,” “Pots of Gold,” “Let’s Find A Way,” “You Are The Music” and their most recent single, “Wishing.” But, international radio has always been more adventurous than America’s. With the US release of the project this October (an import is available now), time will tell if singer/composer/producer Andy Platts, bassist “Professor” Rex Horan, keyboardist Dave “Eighties” Burnell, guitarist Terry “Spiller” Lewis, and drummer “Union” Jack Politt become the household names this album indicates they deserve. Join the rest of the world and let Mama’s Gun sweep you off your feet.
By L. Michael Gipson