Sonic Diet

John Legend + The Roots + Bill Withers

(Note: I know it’s Thursday. And I know I, dwellephant, said I’d only be here through Wednesday. But think of this extra day not as me wearing out my welcome, but more like those rare months that run a little longer than the others, and therefore include THREE pay periods.)

I’m going to  go ahead and assume that every WMSE listener has at least a vague awareness of The Roots. They’ve been around for a while now. They’ve put out a lot of albums. They’ve collaborated with everyone from Al Green to Jay-Z. And they’re the house band/best thing about Jimmy Fallon’s late night show on NBC, often playing behind the night’s musical guest. (I highly recommend you watch what they did with Paul Simon and Mos Def.)

This year, The Roots have decided to ignore everyday concepts like “sleep” and “time off,” and instead focus on releasing not one but two albums. And while the first one is still taking its sweet ol’ time to grow on me, the one they’re about to release is already a personal favorite. Partially because I’ve seen some in-studio videos of them performing the songs. But also because the songs themselves are an excellent selection of tunes from the ’60s and ’70s.

Yes, it’s a cover record. Stop cringing. You and I both know that if anyone can do a cover record right, it’s these guys. Especially when it’s music they so obviously hold near and dear. And throwing John Legend front and center to croon these particular tunes? As perfect as bacon in a bloody mary.

The album is called Wake Up Everybody. And the above video is my favorite of all the teasers so far. It’s a full-length, in-studio performance of Bill Withers’ incredible “I Can’t Write Left-Handed.” (Side note: Fatboy Slim sampled that piano lick very nicely for this little gem, some 27 years after Mr. Withers’ famed Carnegie Hall performance of it.) It’s a pretty heavy song. The kind of thing soul music was made for. And this Roots/Legend team-up frankly take it to church. It’s a slow-build burner of a tune, and absolute worth watching in its entirety for Kirk’s guitar playing alone.

I can see this, and the entire forthcoming album, right at home on countless WMSE shows. (Heck, the entire Blues Drive could have a field day with this.) And if you need more evidence, look no further than their interpretation of one of my favorite Baby Huey tunes. Anyone that can do that song justice is aces in my book.

The album comes out September 21. Get thee to your neighborhood record store and order a copy. Or do the digital thing. But supporting the neighborhood is always better.

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This entry was published on September 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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