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The Graham Album Review #2114

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Trombone Shorty: Lifted

(Blue Note Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 5/11/2022)

It seems as if classic-style soul is experiencing a multifaceted revival. We recently reviewed a couple of acoustic or mostly acoustic soul-influenced albums by Allen Stone and Matt Andersen. And other performers are drawing on the Memphis, Motown and Muscle Shoals soul sounds like Victor Wainwright and the Train, and Lake Minnetonka. This week we have a new recording that brings a healthy dose of New Orleans soul to the mix. It’s by Trombone Shorty, and his new release called Lifted.

Troy Andrews is better known by his stage name Trombone Shorty, and he is New Orleans through and through, living his whole life in the Crescent City, growing up in the Treme neighborhood, which has been a source of many musicians, and where the New Orleans brass band tradition has been strong. He got his start at an early age. At 4, he appeared on stage with Bo Diddley at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. He was leading his own brass band by age 6, and by his teens he was a member of the Stooges brass band, and was a classmate of Jon Batiste at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts.

Over the years, he has compiled an impressive resume of well-known artists in whose bands he played, including Lennie Krawitz, and the Neville Brothers. He also performed with U2 and Green Day at the post-Katrina re-opening of the New Orleans Superdome. And more recently, he has been performing with the Foo Fighters. He has also appeared on TV series, and voiced a character in a Peanuts movie.

His first album as a leader was issued in 2002, with most of his early recordings being live albums. Lifted is his fifth major label recording, and it’s an energetic project that exudes the New Orleans spirit of having a good time. In addition to his trademark trombone – and there are not too many trombone-playing front-men in the rock and pop world – Andrews plays trumpet quite bit, and most of the tracks have solos on one or the other brass instrument. The instrumental lineup is strong on the horns, with various saxes, though Andrews is usually heard on several brass instruments by way of overdubbing, making up a fat-sounding horn section. And one of the tracks features a full New Orleans brass band.

The music is energetic and generally upbeat, incorporating combinations of the various classic 1960s-influenced soul schools like Memphis and Motown, with slightly more contemporary influences like Prince. Andrews does most of the lead vocals, though there are a couple of guest singers, bluesman Gary Clark, Jr. and Lauren Daigle. The songs were all co-written by Trombone Shorty with a variety of collaborators.

Opening is a track called Come Back whose lyrics are about wishing a significant other would return after an apparent breakup. With words like that, you might expect a more downcast musical setting, but Trombone Shorty and band give it a strong funk groove with the big-sounding horn section. <<>>

With the sound of a New Orleans brass band is the song Lie to Me with Trombone Shorty playing multiple brass instruments. <<>>

Bluesman Gary Clark, Jr. makes his appearance on the song I’m Standing Here which takes a more rock-oriented direction. With Trombone Shorty’s horn work, the track is a strong one. <<>>

Vocalist Lauren Daigle makes her appearance on the song called What It Takes, whose lyrics some show some Gospel influence, while the track bounces along with a good funk groove. <<>> Trombone Shorty solos on trumpet and the tune turns a little jazzy. <<>>

The New Breed Brass Band, complete with sousaphone, makes an appearance on the song called Everybody in the World. It’s reminiscent of the style of fellow New Orleanian Allen Toussant, and one of my favorite tracks on the album. <<>>

The title song Lifted takes a decidedly more rock direction, with the cranked up guitar of Pete Murano. <<>>

One the other hand Trombone Shorty gives a tip of the hat to the Motown sound on Forgiveness, with one the better sets of lyrics. <<>>

The closing track Good Company is a nice mixture of soul influences from Prince to Sly and the Family Stone. It’s another of the strongest on the album. <<>>

Lifted the new release from Troy Andrews, better known as Trombone Shorty, is a thoroughly enjoyable album of fun retro soul, incorporating the influences that made the style what it was, with a strong dash of New Orleans, while keeping it interesting, and having the added distinction of the leader of the group being a trombonist. So there are plenty of horns, and great grooves all around. The playing is first rate and the material is consistently solid.

Our grade for sound quality is an A-minus. This music is naturally at full strength much of the time, but sometimes the horns sound a little overdriven and not as clean as they could be.

This is a rather good time for those who go for classic-style soul with everything from acoustic projects to energetic funk-influenced music appearing. Trombone Shorty has delivered a great album of energetic, New Orleans flavored soul that provides an instant party.

(c) Copyright 2022 George D. Graham. All rights reserved.
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This page last updated May 15, 2022