Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Howl” by JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound from the 2013 album Howl on Bloodshot Records.
Drawing from the musical American traditions of Detroit and Georgia, Chicago’s JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound form a raw, rollicking take on modern R&B that doesn’t shy away from the genre’s rougher aspects. Brooks’ voice is at once both smooth and gritty, not unlike his sorta-contemporary Charles Bradley, and although there’s plenty of melody in the Uptown Sound’s arrangements, it leans more towards Stax than Motown, occasionally with a punk-like amount of unbridled intensity. The band’s third album, Howl, is a gritty and vulnerable album of R&B cuts that sound like a gritty soul take on Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker. Opening with subtle guitars and bass under Brooks’ emotive growl, “Howl” builds its fire slowly before releasing its tension in a fiery chorus. “All the truest lovers never need to make a sound,” says Brooks in the opening verse, and although his shouts imply he may not be a perfect romantic partner by his own logic, his flaws - a rich singing voice, songwriting chops, and a crack backing band - more than make up for whatever faults he has.
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound have shows in support of Howl set through October, but no Pacific Northwest dates are announced at the moment. Keep an eye on their website and Facebook page for any news on those gigs, and watch the band play “Alive” live on KEXP in 2012 now: