Water Seed - We are Stars (2017)

Water Seed
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Water Seed - We Are Stars

In New Orleans, the word gumbo can refer to food and music. The sounds that emerge from the city’s musical stew are an amalgamation of African, Spanish, French and Native American influences that can be heard in the jazz, blues, gospel, soul, marches and R&B that are a part of the city’s musical identity.

New Orleans is not the first city that comes to mind when folks think of funk music. Dayton or all points Ohio (probably), New York (definitely), and even Washington, D.C. But when it comes to Funk, New Orleans takes a back seat to no city. New Orleans gave the world The Meters, Dr.  John and Trombone Shorty to name a few – and there is no shortage of funkiness there.

Water Seed - We Are Stars

In New Orleans, the word gumbo can refer to food and music. The sounds that emerge from the city’s musical stew are an amalgamation of African, Spanish, French and Native American influences that can be heard in the jazz, blues, gospel, soul, marches and R&B that are a part of the city’s musical identity.

New Orleans is not the first city that comes to mind when folks think of funk music. Dayton or all points Ohio (probably), New York (definitely), and even Washington, D.C. But when it comes to Funk, New Orleans takes a back seat to no city. New Orleans gave the world The Meters, Dr.  John and Trombone Shorty to name a few – and there is no shortage of funkiness there.

The band Water Seed also hails from New Orleans, and their latest effort, We Are Stars, might just be the most Crescent City rooted of their five albums. Over the course of 14 songs, Water Seed provides listeners with an overview of how to throw blues, jazz, gospel, soul and rock into a pot and come out with something that’s funky. It’s hard to hold listeners’ attention over the course of 14 tracks, and We Are Stars contains a little bit of filler, but listeners don’t get to rest too long.

“Bollywood” tells that too familiar story of guys watching that girl in the club move exotically to the music, and while the lyrics are kind of cliché, listeners are treated to a band that is top flight and consistently top flight throughout. The group bounces back strongly on “Home to You,” a mournful waltz that fuses the soulful blues of Dr. John with some gospel infused backing vocals. It is one of two top flight ballads found on We Are Stars. The other ballad, the doo-wop styled “Messed Up,” features a torrid vocal performance by Berkley the Artist.

We Are Stars takes off from there. The brassy and thumping bass of “Funktimus Prime” puts a spin on the character Optimus Prime from The Transformers cartoon and action film franchise. Transformers fans know that the Optimus Prime’s alter-ego is a truck. Berkley is a working stiff until 5 p.m. Friday where he goes home and transforms into the party robot.

The motivational “Brand New Day” starts with a R&B arrangement and Berkley and Shaleyah singing about the possibilities brought daily by rising of the sun. The track then slides into jazz with a bit of improve by flautist Cinese that takes us straight to the sanctified church as the band breaks it down so the saints can do their holy dance.

“Duke-ish” is an instrumental tribute to George Duke, who mentored keyboardist J Sharp. And the tune serves as a platform for Sharp to do a bit of creating in honor of the late keyboardist, while “Purple and White” is a slice of 70s era funk/jazz fusion. The Motown styled “Work It Out” finds Berkley recalling parental advice extolling the virtue and dignity of hard work. “My daddy said/can’t just sit around/watching clouds fly by while the world’s spinning around/He said son/I know you’re feeling down/but a hard day’s work/is where your gift is found.

Natural disaster forced members of Water Seed out of the city for a time, but musically they never left New Orleans because all musical roads, from blues, soul and yes – funk - eventually lead back to New Orleans. And they’ve provided quite a tour with We Are Stars. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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