These days, The Soul of John Black is in A Sunshine State of Mind. John Bigham (effectively, The Soul of John Black) is playing everywhere, and a new album is to be released June 4th. According to the Yellow Dog Records site, “The inspiration for A Sunshine State of Mind came to JB during the winter in his home town of Los Angeles. ‘Although the sun shines all the time there, the mood brightens even more once the summer months arrive,’ he explained. ‘I wanted to write about the essence of summer, songs that would keep that attitude going year-round.'”
Bigham has been making music a long time, and has worked with musicians such as Miles Davis, Everlast, Dr. Dré, Nikka Costa, and Eminem. He is a singer, composer, producer, and performer of boundless enthusiasm. The Soul of John Black was originally founded by John Bigham and Christopher Thomas. Since 2007, John Bigham has been recording alone and using the The Soul Of John Black as his stage and band name. TSOJB’s last outing, Good Thang, was a great mix of blues tinged, soul and funk influenced joy.
A Sunshine State of Mind, on Yellow Dog Records, is TSOJB’s 5th release. This album is a huge leap forward; it is more focused, concise, and much, much tighter! Personnel on this album are: Oliver Charles- live drums, Jacob Luttrell – electric piano, Chris Joyner – electric piano (“Lenny Love Cha Cha”), Andre Holmes – bass (“Shake It Off”), and Jonell Kennedy – background vocals (“Higher Power”). There are many cuts on this album that absolutely shine. The uptempo songs are breezy, spacious, and reminiscent of the great mid-70’s Detroit soul, with echoes of underlying blues. The slower songs here remind us of Prince’s nod to older R&B on his Musicology album, only livelier. Prince was making the point that listeners should be educated about music; TSOJB wants you to revel in the goodness of summer music and have a good time doing it.
As stated earlier, instrumentally, the playing is spacious and light. The guitars provide excellent rhythms, the vocals are relaxed, and the rest of the players provide spirited backing throughout. Standout tracks include the upbeat, mildly blues infused “Magic Woman,” the thumpin’ “East LA Lady,” and the slow and lovely “Higher Power,” with its beautiful vocal textures. Also of note, the feel good, strumfest “Lenny Love Cha Cha,” and the Al Green influenced “Summertime Thang.”
This is a fine album. Check it out soon. If you have the chance to see The Soul of John Black live, do it! You won’t regret it.