Amp Fiddler - Afro Strut (2007)

Amp Fiddler
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Afro Strut is the second release by Joseph "Amp" Fiddler. A Detroit native and multi-instrumentalist, Amp has manage to steadily build a reputation as a musician's musician, fostering supporting role connections with many Black music luminaries such as Prince, George Clinton, J-Dilla, Moodymann a.k.a. Kenneth Dixon Jr., Fishbone, Maxwell and on and on. Amp Fiddler is an artist who comes with a pedigree and a reputation for funky key board playing and up-to-the-minute style. His is a well deserved reputation, debuting in 2004 with Waltz of the Ghetto Fly; Fiddler has since established himself as a worthy front man in his own right.

His latest project, Afro Strut, has finally gotten a stateside release. Originally issued in the U.K. in August 2006, Afro Strut (US Edition) has been re-tooled and beefed up with four new tracks while omitting three from the original release.

Afro Strut is the second release by Joseph "Amp" Fiddler. A Detroit native and multi-instrumentalist, Amp has manage to steadily build a reputation as a musician's musician, fostering supporting role connections with many Black music luminaries such as Prince, George Clinton, J-Dilla, Moodymann a.k.a. Kenneth Dixon Jr., Fishbone, Maxwell and on and on. Amp Fiddler is an artist who comes with a pedigree and a reputation for funky key board playing and up-to-the-minute style. His is a well deserved reputation, debuting in 2004 with Waltz of the Ghetto Fly; Fiddler has since established himself as a worthy front man in his own right.

His latest project, Afro Strut, has finally gotten a stateside release. Originally issued in the U.K. in August 2006, Afro Strut (US Edition) has been re-tooled and beefed up with four new tracks while omitting three from the original release. The Afro Strut project has gotten a lot of mileage over the past year or so: three incarnations (UK edition, UK-US edition and now the US Edition), numerous remixes, bootleg vocal mash ups and special edition 10 inch singles. As a fan, I'll admit I've bought every single one of them and as such it seems like Joseph Amp Fiddler is a marketer's dream. However for a project that has gotten so much spin you'd think it would be better known. Perhaps that's the irony of Joseph Amp Fiddler - he's probably one of soul music's best connected individuals, having worked with, influenced and/or supported an array of top flight acts but as yet he's never been able to manage an above ground hit of his own.  This may speak more to the fickle machinations of the music industry than to Amp's musical worthiness.

A typical Fiddler track is familiar, funkily-relaxed and comfortable in a lot of settings. Amp has caché - he always delivers quality with just enough sheen to draw you into his gritty urban world.  Afro Strut continues this. It contains many likeable and memorable songs that at times can feel like a guilty pleasure. There are also pleasant soul ambles on offerings like the light and lovely "Heaven," featuring NY session stalwart Stephanie McKay, or the groovy "Right Where You Are," with instant vintage support from the ubiquitous Raphael Saadiq.   Gritty ghetto tales deliver you into the world of hustlers and pimps and strung out lovers. One strong track in particular, "Hustle," comes straight off the pages of the Blaxploitation Times - filled with pathos and Mayfield-esque cinematic strings.

Fiddler's music can conjure up strong images, complimented by his concise story telling, raspy crooning style and strong production work. He is a man who intimately knows the breadth of black music and can easily reference the many styles of the idiom - there's the faux 1920's speakeasy-style jazz of "If I Don't," re-recorded here with an able assist from the pixie-ish Corrine Bailey Rae. There's the roller disco-bounce of "Riding;" or the Marvin Gaye pathos of "Not."

Taken together as complete package, Afro Strut absolutely works. It's a record that has personality, gritty soul and musical skill. Afro Strut's unlikely to become a blockbuster (and that is perhaps way it has taken so long to find a home in the U.S), but nonetheless I am glad that it has the opportunity to be heard by a wider audience. I would encourage your support of the project and help bring Mr. Fiddler over-ground so he can make him some cheddar (think "dollars")! Recommended!

by Jujube Jones

 
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