music with a soulful bias


Oh nothing, just Stevie Wonder, in a pristine suit, leaning on a Rolls Royce.


Oh nothing, just Stevie Wonder, in a pristine suit, leaning on a Rolls Royce.

(via jazzrelatedstuff)

Source: gutsanduppercuts




Billie Holiday & Louis Armstrong x New Orleans (1947)


Agreed! God bless you, nerjj!

Satchmo and Lady Day

Source: harrybelafontes

|   Tags: Sam Cooke summer soul music   |   Notes: 1

First posted: May 2011

You’ve heard the stories of the footballer who won’t go onto the pitch unless he is the very last out of the tunnel. Or people who won’t leave the house without socks that don’t match on. I’m sure you’ve even seen the tennis player with a comprehensive routine of hair slicking and ball bouncing between every serve. In whatever form it might take, we all have our own array of peculiar routines, superstitions or idiosyncrasies which have to be adhered to before we can really be satisfied. 

Even though we’ve been having great weather lately I’m still not sure it’s summer yet. It seems too good to be true. Besides, for me, it can’t have started because I haven’t had the right chance to play Sam Cooke’s ‘Having a Party’. This song for me is summer. It is going to a BBQ with friends or family, more food than anyone can handle, the drink flowing, people dancing and chatting happily, the sun’s shining, the music blasting from the sound-system, no work in the morning and everyone having a great time.

It’s the laid-back saxophone fills, the simple backbeat of claps, Sam’s effortless vocals and especially, the chorus of voices backing him which create the party atmosphere that signals the start of summertime festivities. So don your brogues and your trilbies, your Wayfarers and your khaki shorts, crack open a few ice-cold beers, turn up the volume and let the summer begin. 

|   Tags: Lady Day Jazz Singer Billie Holiday Music   |   Notes: 54

Billie Holiday 

Eleanora Fagan (7 April 1915 - 17 July 1959)

|   Tags: Ofei London newcomer Soul Music   |   Notes: 1

Would you believe me if I told you soul music is changing? As a self-confessed soul purist my knee-jerk reaction is to repel the charge of those prefixed sentinels of “soul” (think “neo” and “modern”), from the safety of a tower built from the sturdy genius of Hathaway, Gaye, Franklin, and the like. These foundations run deep; the brickwork regular. And yet how can I stubbornly ignore the warnings echoing around the ramparts? The bricks and mortar have turned to ivory.

So how refreshing it was to find mysterious producer Ofei, creating music that blows apart the restrictive boundaries of genre. ‘London’ was released late last year and received immediate attention from the blogosphere and sections of the music press. The song is skilfully and soulfully contemporary. Tried and tested elements are the main attraction: soulful vocals, shimmering piano hooks, a laid-back yet driving bass. But they are held together by a subtle production which does not try to take centre stage. Vocals are tinged with a hint of autotune; the hint of surface noise, a favourite of the Garage Band generation.

The result? A soundscape that brings soul bang up to date and more exciting than it has been since its heyday.

Official website -

Source: SoundCloud / Official-O

|   Tags: music Soul Bobby Womack XL  

Bobby Womack being turned into a hipster by Damon Albarn and Richard Russell was probably the best thing that happened to his career since Tarantino used ‘Across 110th Street’ in the title sequence of Jackie Brown.

In ‘Deep River’, a track from the 2012 critically-acclaimed album The Bravest Man in the Universe, Bobby pares down and takes it back to the plantation days of the deep South.

|   Tags: Donny Hathaway Soul Singer-Songwriter Legend   |   Notes: 15

Donny Edward Hathaway (1 October 1945- 13 January 1979)

"Of all the attributes of soul singing, I consider sweetness the most important- sweetness of vocal character, sweetness in reading lyrics, sweetness in shaping the melody. Sam Cooke was the great prophet of this school and Solomon [Burke] it’s next great proponent. A decade later Donny Hathaway elevated the style, spreading the sweet-sound influence over present-day singers."

- Jerry Wexler

|   Tags: percy mayfield soul   |   Notes: 2

"only you can tell how deep is the well,
‘cause the well is the soul of a man"

- Percy Mayfield

|   Tags: Bill Withers Soul Music Singer-Songwriter  

When watching footage of Bill Withers in interviews what strikes you is his immense gravitas. He is firmly grounded, astoundingly modest, abundantly dignified- traits which are not always shared by artists who have experienced a fraction of the success Bill’s music has achieved over the near-half century since his debut album Just As I Am was released by Sussex Records in 1971. The record, produced by Booker T. Jones, elevated Bill to the lofty height of stardom, but only a decade later he would step out of the spotlight altogether in exchange for the comfort of family life. Bill got his lucky break fairly late in life. When his first single ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ became a breakthrough hit he was already 31, which might have been the crucial element to his unostentatious stint at being a star.

Bill Withers’s lowly upbringing in Slabfork, West Virginia taught him the importance of family, and his fondest memories of childhood are crystallised in the evocative sound of clapping in ‘Grandma’s Hands’. He developed a stammer as a child, which made him deeply shy and unable to express himself clearly until the age of 27. This seems so unlikely for someone who is able to communicate so beautifully in the lyrics of his songs universal truths, convey deep emotion and narrate fantastic stories.

The simplicity of his music was such that he could strum a few, basic chords on his guitar or a few notes on the piano and yet the profound power of the words would rise from within him, emanate from his soul and envelop his audience. Whether it is the enduring love between two people (‘Just the Two of Us’), the emotion of a father finding out about his 6 year-old daughter (‘I’m Her Daddy’), the anguish of a man who has been sent off to war and is having to deal with its consequences (‘I Can’t Write Left-Handed’), or even just the highs and lows of living in the city with its day-to-day hustle (‘Harlem’), Bill’s music speaks to everyone.

The Bill Withers song which first captured me was ‘Lean On Me’, which is why I have posted his 1973 live performance above. It is without exaggeration when I say that if it wasn’t for this man and his music I would not have done many great things in my life. This song for me is no longer merely a track- it is memories, it is joy and happiness, it is the root of my aspirations. The message comes from a man telling his friend and brother that, no matter what, he will be there for him.

So, whether Bill Withers makes music for commercial release again or not, we know that through his music he will always be there; immortalised forever in the pantheon of great musicians who had something to say to the world, said it unassumingly, then left it with us for resolute contemplation.


|   Tags: Michael Kiwanuka Singer-Songwriter Soul newcomer  

Riding on the crest of a wave since his successes of last year, including being named BBC Sound of 2012,  Michael Kiwanuka is growing in stature and becoming a fully-accomplished artist. His much-anticipated debut album came out earlier this month and is capturing audiences everywhere. He continues to grow musically, in the studio and on stage. Whilst his live performances have definitely been bolstered by the new additions to his band, it is refreshing when Kiwanuka performs numbers like this: pared down and raw, the kind of music you piece together at home with no one to disturb you. No pressure to perform, no audience to please, no grand narratives. Just a man with his guitar.

|   Notes: 7

now that’s a damn concert.


now that’s a damn concert.

Source: latetothepartymusic

|   Notes: 110
An illustration for my previous post on Lianne La Havas ‘No Room for Doubt’


City lights and car fights

An illustration for my previous post on Lianne La Havas ‘No Room for Doubt’


City lights and car fights

(via streetetiquette)

Source: bitersphotography

|   Tags: Bill Withers   |   Notes: 5

"I write and sing about whatever I am able to understand and feel. I feel that it is healthier to look out at the world through a window than through a mirror. Otherwise, all you see is yourself and whatever is behind you."

- Bill Withers

|   Tags: Lianne La Havas newcomer singer-songwriter  

I often wonder what future generations will inherit as our music legacy. When artists release songs these days I wonder if they have longevity in mind, or does the music “business” simply encourage musicians to make a quick buck and see how long they can last? I would hope that within our current musical context the artists who have the desire and passion to continue doing what they do for years to come far outweighs those who reach number one at Christmas then are gone as quickly as they arrived. 

I was driving back home a few weeks ago and, as usual, had the radio on. After our brief spat of freak summer sunshine in late September an outrider of autumn rain had come to survey the land. As it sprinkled down onto the roof of the car and was lit up in columns by the glowing street lamps I was, for a few seconds, lost in my own thoughts. Amidst familiar London traffic, the scarlet spots of brake lights in front dilated across the foggy, wet windscreen and I was transfixed by the sound which emanated from the radio. 

The voice was pure but with a husky, soulful hue. It was a sweet, mellow sound and the melodic line had captured me with its simple but hypnotic power. I was soothed by the modest lilt of the strummed chords, the gentle plucking of the strings, the movement of the fingers up and down the fretboard. When the song comes to a pause halfway through it still has you entranced, dangling you over the precipice before reaching forward to pull you back into the warmth of its duel-voiced lullaby. Harmony is used sparsely, sprinkled over you at random moments like that rain which followed the Indian summer.

And apparently, I’m not the only who was taken in by this talented musician. After hearing her sound check for Later With Jools Holland, Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon invited Lianne to support their tour of the US and Canada. Having watched the show myself as a fan of hers (and two subjects of previous posts on this blog, Bon Iver and Ben L’Oncle Soul), it was great to see that her performance had earned her valuable exposure and a larger fanbase. 

With the coming months I am sure that her success will only continue to grow. The snowball effect began with a New Year’s resolution in 2011 and hopefully, with the passing of the years she will be marked as one of the enduring artists of our time.