Official Biography (courtesy of the Dynamites)
If the first attention-grabbing horn lines of The Dynamites album Kaboom! evoke a dramatic curtain call from a late â€˜60s funk concert at the Apollo Theater, it's no accident. After all, that's exactly where Charles Walker, the band's singer and front man, first cut his teeth as a performer. When the revolutionary â€˜new bag' now known as funk first made the scene, Walker was right there in the thick of it, opening for the likes of James Brown, Etta James, and Wilson Pickett, and imbibing himself in a cultural movement's genesis.
Walker recorded on many of the most reputed soul labels of the era, including Champion, Chess and Decca. In the early â€˜60s, his group â€˜Little Charles and the Sidewinders' became one of the hottest acts on the New York club scene. All this, combined with his Tennessee upbringing, made Walker a natural to be included in the Country Music Hall of Fame's Night Train to Nashville exhibit. As Doyle Davis, now The Dynamites' manager, milled through the exhibit, curator Michael Gray raved about Walker's recent performance at an event promoting the exhibit's Night Train to Nashville release on Lost Highway Records. Davis knew then and there that he'd found the singer that Bill Elder, The Dynamites' founder, had been searching for. The rest is history.
If this all sounds retro, think again. The Dynamites are far from being alone in their second millennium pursuit of rekindling funk's original flames. A renaissance of funk and soul is snatching up listeners from coast to coast and beyond. As the NY Times article "What's Going On? Everything Soul is New Again," from February 2007 says loud and clear; soul music is making a formidable comeback. "More than at any time in recent memory, soul music's pressing syncopation and stirring hollers are churning within the popular mainstream."
For the unconverted or simply indifferent, Kaboom!'s first track, "Body Snatcher," provides a potent wake-up call. But no worries, this body snatcher isn't the grisly stuff of horror movies, but a smoking instrumental that simultaneously underscores the band's virtuosity while skillfully dismantling their listeners' aural inhibitions.
From the get go, the spirit of James Brown is in the house. Nevertheless it is worth inserting a disclaimer: habituated ears will be caught off guard. There's something new in the mix and The Dynamites definitely have their own thing going on. Bill Elder, the band's composer, guitarist and producer has made sure of that. He's also made sure that nothing was left to chance in creating The Dynamites' sound.
Elder, a.k.a. Leo Black, spent two years composing and fine tuning prior to unveiling the band onstage. In a Nashville Scene article, Elder explained why creating their sound took time. "The music is put together in a very calculated way, though it doesn't necessarily give that impression. Every piece has to be looked at from a spatial standpoint, a rhythmic standpoint. It's about every instrument having its own space to do its thing."
While The Dynamites are the first to acknowledge their roots in the Deep Funk movement, they are by no means purists. The genre's producers and musicians tend to aim for an antiquated sound. Listeners are often kept guessing; were the songs recorded 30 years ago or yesterday? The Dynamites have taken a different approach. The richly recorded sounds of Kaboom! attest that while The Dynamites are devoted to an old school sensibility, they aren't afraid of sounding like their music was recorded in 2007.
For soul veteran Walker, finding songwriter Bill Elder has been an epiphany. More importantly, he's found in Elder a songwriter that writes for his voice. This stands in sharp contrast to the days when he was asked to record songs whether they inspired him or not. "I didn't have the songs that I felt were right for me. Now I can pick and choose the songs I want to do. When I was with Chess and Decca I did what they wanted me to do." The result being that Walker is more relaxed and at ease in the studio. "I feel so confident now. I can remember being under so much pressure to try and get a hit record. Now I'm just in there doing what I like to do."
Walker is relaxed and at the top of his game and any discerning listener can feel it. The fuse has been lit. Kaboom! is readymade for detonation. And, as comeback albums from soul artists like Charles Walker grace the charts, it seems the public is ready too. Get on the floor, â€˜cause The Dynamites are killing it!