Curtis Harding

It would be easy to label Curtis Harding as a retro-soul act, say his new album is excellent and move on with your day. And while that is the foundation for all that is good on this album, it’d be doing Harding a disservice to stop right there. On his Anti debut, Harding incorporates elements of garage and psychedelia into the mix for an excellent sophomore effort.

On And On is the type of track that makes you want to get up and dance around (at least at my house it is). Dream Girl sees Harding showing off his falsetto in what best can be described (at least by me) as some sort of future soul jam. On Til The End, an undeniably catchy track, Harding mixes in some swagger with some regret with a voice-over meant to be his gal.

All in all, Harding avoids the dreaded sophomore jinx and produced the goods for Anti on an album that cements him as one of the rising forces in music today.

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Soul Power by Curtis Harding was one my favorites of 2014 . It was released via Burger Records and combined Harding’s soulful vocals with the garage rock experience you’ve come to expect from Burger’s catalog. He’s since signed to ANTI and I feel like I’ve been waiting for this one for awhile. Here’s a little more on the album from Curtis.

As Curtis explains, “The record [Face Your Fear], to me, is all over the place because I go through moods, man. I change.” The dark title track was inspired by the feeling of a nightmare; a foreboding feeling, the spell broken by the clarity of awakening. “By the way maybe don’t worry Its OK face your fear” he croons on the chorus. Fear of the unknown, fear of the unfamiliar is a bad dream the brave among us must constantly shake ourselves out of. it’s something he’s had to practice his entire life as he moved from place to place and continues to practice as he moves forward as a musician, “Just putting myself out there and not being close-minded and just being open to different ideas and different sounds and different flavors and putting myself in situations sometimes where I didn’t know if I would make it out but you know [the mantra is], face your fuckin’ fear!

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

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Photo by Hedi Slumane

About 1:30 into the first track, Next Time, was when I knew I was going to love this album. Curtis Harding plays an edgy and grimy version of old school soul music. At that point in the song, the horns come in for the first time and they are oh so subtle. At a time when so many of the retro-soul acts want to bash you over the head to let you know that they have horns, it was refreshing to see them ease into the song. Kudos to the organ solo outro as well after the classic kiss-off line of “See you later bitch.”

Harding has played with everybody from Outkast, Cee-Lo Green and Cole Alexander of the Black Lips. I’ve described Soul Power as early Black Keys meets Michael Kiwanuka. And while the base of this music is soul, Harding mixes in his own flavor – sprinkling in touches of disco, garage, blues and gospel. Gospel is music close to his hear as his mother was a gospel singer. “Gospel is inspiring,” says Harding. “From hardship and trials, you make something beautiful. It’s the history of black people in America, what happened to us during slavery, it’s the foundation of blues, R&B, soul, country, rock.”

Like another HearYa favorite, Nick Waterhouse, Harding really has a grasp and respect of music from yesteryear. Soul Power is a dozen tracks that will put a smile on your face. This is one of the best debuts of 2014. Don’t sleep on it.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

Curtis Harding is here.

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