Funky Fall Edition, Part 2: Sure Fire Soul Ensemble, Neal Francis, Doug Shorts & Ikebe Shakedown

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The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble: Build Bridges

How you doing today, friends? Butt still shakin’ from last week’s albums? Ready for four more rump-rockers? Hell yeah, you are! Sometimes a band’s name tells you all you need to know and that’s definitely true for San Diego’s The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble. Their latest release is Build Bridges and is sure to light a fire in your soul with its big horn-heavy groove ensemble. This is funk at its rawest and easiest to love, ready-made for your next dance party big or small. Dig it.

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Neal Francis: Changes

Sometimes an album comes along and you’re simultaneously thinking “where did this come from” and “this guy is about to blow up.” That’s the feeling I get from Changes the revelation from Chicago musician Neal Francis. From the opening shuffle of “This Time” to the keep-up-with-me-if-you-can rock-out at the end of the closing track “Put It In His Hands,” this is top to bottom one of the best releases of the year. Funky? Yes! But so much more. If this has escaped your ears so far, please do plug into Changes right away. Enjoy!

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Doug Shorts: Casual Encounter

Hey now, Chicago, we’re sticking with you for the next rec, the ever-groovy EP Casual Encounter from Doug Shorts. This one, out on the ever-reliable Ropeadope label, is funky enough that it only needs a quick hit-it-and-quit-it six tracks to get its point across. Old school groove vibes that feel about 40 years old mix in with some old-is-new-again updates to bring an altogether bumper to life. Be careful with this, you’re going to need some room to move by the time you get into the first couple tracks. Boogie on.

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Ikebe Shakedown: Kings Left Behind

Ikebe Shakedown are not new, they’ve been doing their Afrobeat-inspired thing for a good 10 years now, but, goddamnit, they sound as fresh and alive as ever on their new one. Kings Left Behind is the soundtrack to a sci-fi Western, a journey to the dawn of funk and a damn good dance party all rolled into 10 tracks of pure heat. This one features masters at the top of their game. If it ain’t on your radar, get it on there, a good one to end on. Now call your friends and get dancing.