Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Album Review: Brownout - Berlin Sessions

Berlin Sessions
**** out of *****

The funk band Brownout have been busy, recording tributes to Public Enemy, Black Sabbath and other projects, like part of the amazing Black Pumas, but now for the first time in eight years they deliver an album of original tunes. Berlin Sessions was recorded by the Austin Texas based nine piece outfit with the help of Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) as the collection strikes through various styles and genres with success

The band, Gilbert Elorreaga, Greg Gonzalez, John Speice IV, Matthew "Sweet Lou" Holmes, Mark "Speedy" Gonzales, Adrian Quesada, Beto Martinez, Josh Levy, Alex Marrero, and Peter Stopschinski never seemed tied to one particular sound and like a chameleon changes from tune to tune. Just one example is the get down soul of "Upon This Rock" and the dramatic/scenic/psychedelic freak rock of tunes like "Seamus" and "Hold Your Way"; the band is naturally at home in both worlds.

The funky rock and roll recalls groups like Galactic or Tower of Power as the band puts it's own Texas spin on it, whether it be the Spanish vocals on "Nain" or the intoxicating wah-wah guitars and horn blasts on "Brownie", an album highlight. The group is determined to show off their range, and do well in all genres they experiment in, including two gospel leaning tunes, the inspired "You Gotta Change" with Anthony Farrell and the percussion based "Fill My Cup".

This is the first album for the group with Marrero as the lead vocalist and he does a great job on tunes like"In-Between" and opener "Somewhere To Go" but the group really shines brightest when all the musicians are locked in like on the burning instrumental effort "The Zealot". The only number that feels a bit out of place is the overly dramatic string laden closer "After November" which won't be an issue if you have the digital version as two grooving winners "Ilusion" and "West Coast" are added as bonus tracks.

The album art recalls Parliment-Funkadelic and while the group displays a broader range than P-Funk did, that sense of anything is possible is present in both groups. Berlin Sessions proves that covering other artists in the recent past was just a prelude to Brownout's full on coming out party. 
Support the artists, buy the album, stream it on bandcamp or below and peep some video:

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