The Groove Kings
The Groove Kings
Official Biography (courtesy of the Groove Kings)
The quirky and unexpected success of the explosive blues rock and R&B duo Groove Kings is proof that even those seemingly anonymous club dates can lead to fruitful musical connections.
One night a few years back, Montreal based songwriter, producer and guitarist Howard Forman was jamming with a soul band in a local hotspot when the manager approached him between sets and told him there was a girl who wanted to sit in. "Usually," says the multi-faceted musician, who once upon a time was a session musician in R&B mecca Muscle Shoals, "this means some white chick who wants to be Aretha will warble â€˜Respect' like a squeaky door hinge." Irene Marc's powerhouse rendition of â€˜Chain of Fools' not only peeled the paint off the walls-it also sparked an exciting long term partnership as Groove Kings and the release of their highly anticipated new album Blood Red.
Engineered by Felix (Quebec Grammy) winner Rob Heaney (Kevin Parent, Isabelle Boulay, Bet E & Stef) and Grammy/Gemini/Juno winner Denis Nomandeau (Zappa Plays Zappa, Cowboy Junkies, Billy Talent, Tragically Hip), the supremely soulful, blues-tinged, simmering 10 track set showcases Irene's powerful pipes and tremendous stylistic range. From chilled-out R&B vibes to blues rock numbers, the songs are crisp, catchy, melodic adult pop gems that would find a welcome home in a CD collection that featured Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse or Annie Lennox.
The collection's mature themes center on real life relationships, personal yet universal emotions and the lessons that life throws at all of us. Jazz inflected trumpet and soulful horn sections bring an uptown feel to a couple of the tracks, while sizzling Latin beats perfectly complement Howard's smoking, Hendrix and Duane Allman-influenced electric guitar fire. The atmospheric and deeply textured title track looks beyond the difficult personalities we encounter in the world to focus on the need for meaningful human connections. "I'm The Rain" underwent a fascinating transformation from its original arrangement as a complicated jazz-blues chart to a live in the studio, gentle and whispery, "eyes closed" kind of blues. Meanwhile, the seductive rocker "What's Real" is all about being on the level and saying what you feel.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think any bar singing would lead to anything," says Irene. "After meeting Howard and sending him a tape of me singing with another band, who knew we'd record some beautiful, kick-ass, soulful songs and get on the charts without a record deal." Howard adds, "Her incredible vocals allow me to do the things I feel most comfortable with, writing, arranging and producing. She's got this crazy stylistic range but doesn't stretch the edges. She switches between big ballads and aggressive blues-rock tunes effortlessly. This allows me a big palette, and I'm able to write with her voice in mind the way a composer can write for saxophone or any lead melody instrument. I can build a bold, powerful track and know it's never going to overwhelm her!"
Originally known as The Groove Kings, the pair was an instant smash in Canada when their first single "Everybody Knows" charted across their native country. They released several popular albums, scored a Top 20 hit with "Tell Me" and headlined a nationally televised concert special on CTV called "Groove Kings Live At The Montreal Spectrum." In the years between making their original splash and the collaborations they've enjoyed these past few years, Irene focused on family and session work while Howard was busy with producing and studio work. Irene toured Japan with "Cirque de Soleil's" Allegria and appeared in their first feature film and on its Jutras Award-winning soundtrack. Howard played on the "Allegria" soundtrack for the Cirque, which became a Top 5 selling world music album. Along the way, he was also nominated for two Genie Awards (Canadian Academy Award) for "Best Song in a Motion Picture."
The album title may be colorful and racy, but Blood Red is engagingly familiar for all the right reasons, fresh and contemporary yet delightfully cool and old school. Globe and Mail's review of a previous recording by Groove Kings is just as applicable to the duo's latest: "...a feel for classic soul and R&B [that] wouldn't sound out of place on a Stax or Atlantic album from the late '60s.""The most exciting part of being Groove Kings with Irene is the opportunity to make music that we love and that pleases us first," Howard says. "As a longtime session musician, I usually have to be concerned about making other people happy, but here it starts with the pure joy we experience making our own music, and that translates to the enjoyment of the fans who listen to it. It's very liberating to write and record an album on your own terms, and we are excited to be back in the mix and grooving once again!"