With a deep connection to the Brooklyn soul scene and a lineup comprising members of the Budos Band, El Michels Affair, Antibalas, and the Dap-Kings, it would be easy to assume that Menahan Street Band plays soul. That the group also backed throwback soul singer Charles Bradley on his 2011 debut, No Time for Dreaming, co-written and produced by MSB co-founder Thomas Brenneck, only bolsters that assumption. Formed of a desire to play music outside the strict disciplines associated with the Brownian soul revue of the Dap-Kings or the Kuti-fueled Antibalas, Menahan’s music incorporates elements often associated with the likes of Neil Young and RZA’s early Wu-Tang productions to reveal a sound that is as much indebted to the influence of classic rock and hip hop as it is to the Godfather, the Black President, and historic labels like Stax/Volt.
The Crossing is front-loaded with the album’s two pre-release singles, the title track and “Lights Out”. The former bridges back to the debut’s closing number, a cover of Bill Conti’s “Going the Distance”, while the latter serves to set the tone for the remainder of the current album. Much of the material on The Crossing was recorded in the wee hours of the morning, when mood and mind are apt to wander down those lesser lit passageways. The songs are not necessarily a nocturne as much a carefully focused array of vibe, mood, and emotion often associated with the pre-dawn hours. But the slightly haunting, lower-timbre drive throughout most of The Crossing is occasionally set aside for lighter fare such as the titular opening number or “Everyday a Dream”, which has the feel of Young-Holt Unlimited’s “Soulful Strut” if Sly Stone and Burt Bacharach had been consulted.
Though the music on The Crossing was recorded over a span of two years, there is a consistency throughout that is representative of a collaboration that comes from musicians truly in tune with each others’ creative instincts. Described as “not soul music per se, [but rather] ‘dark night of the soul’ music,” Brenneck and team fully expect listeners’ minds to “wander into some weird places.” The naturally cinematic aura hovering throughout The Crossing coupled with such nomadic cogitation allows the listener to imagine a new soundtrack with each playback.
Essential Tracks: “The Crossing”, “Everyday a Dream”