the memphis soul revival takes its next step with ‘muse’, the full length from blues/hip-hop duo charliered. #soundcheck

September 6, 2013

These days, there’s no shortage of artists riding the wave of soul revival. That’s not a bad thing. That magic early period of Stax Records when the Memphis soul sound was creating a darker grittier counterpoint to the pop coming out of Motown is always worth revisiting. But where many artists right now go in full-on revival mode—even going so far as to record on vintage gear in classic Memphis studios—there aren’t many out there who are using the building blocks of Memphis soul to create something new. The genius of CharlieRED is that their music is made from some very old pieces but still sounds fresh.

Their Religion EP turned a lot of heads (and with good reason). Their new record MUSE features the same impossibly tight production from Cobaine Ivory. Vintage drum and horn samples that would make Danger Mouse jealous mixed with live guitar and bass. The riffs may sound old, but the way they’re interacting with the drums is new. Sampled, cut up, and layered, the beat drops could only have happened in 2013.

Singer Rocki Evans has his soul croon down. He can jump from wailing to sweetness in a flash of lightening. The pop layering from the Religion EP has been replaced by something more anguished, and maybe more aggressive. The pain and frustration is palpable even when he stretches his syllables out past comprehension. It’s an album of desperation. The dissolution with religion from their EP has curdled. Songs like “GreenGREED” and “On My Mind” stand out for their perfect synthesis of hip-hop production, soul style, and powerful social commentary.

If MUSE signals the moment when artists look to the next phase of soul’s development, rather than just reliving the past, it may be remembered as a watershed moment for the genre. If not, it’s still a tight record.

– Words by Nathan Leigh