The Darn Funk Orchestra – Soul Food
1. Salvation Shoes
2. Psalm 1
3. Psalm 11
5. Soul Food
6. Up Here Down There
9. Psalm 6
10. What The People Say
11. Psalm 13
12. The Way Of The Sluggard
The Darn Funk Orchestra began in 2006, the brainchild of front man and professional drummer, James Darn. The band started life performing at festivals, clubs, pubs and weddings around the country and swiftly gained popularity with their unique performances of classic jazz funk hits and their own original sound – what they dub ‘Darn good songs’ – inspired by their experiences of life, the heroes of funk and of course the Almighty himself.
‘Soul Food’ is the band’s long overdue debut album featuring all original material, straight out of their fun and funky sets. With a stunning horn section, catchy grooves, and colourful jazz arrangements combining with lyrics to make you think. From their ‘funk psalms’ – an alternative take on familiar texts that sees bible scripture in a whole new way, to their songs seasoned with the flavours of life. So get down, get funky and get yourself some true soul food.
Opening track ‘Salvation Shoes‘ quickly introduces the band. With their funk jazz style sound, full of fabulous brass, groovy beats, and laid back vocals, this is a wonderful piece of music. Think Jamiroquai meets Ray Charles and you’ll get a rough idea.
James Darn is clearly the driving force behind this band, impressively laying down the beats from behind his drum kit whilst also providing the coaxing vocals that he wrote himself. But this is no one man band. Chris Snead’s ever present trumpet and Ricardo Ruiz Munoz’s sax both provide energy and excitement. Add in Greg Taplin’s bass, and Ed Dampier’s guitars, and you have a full bodied sound that is entertaining and pleasing to listen to. I particular like the album notes describing Ed’s contribution as ‘Guitar and Elaborate Pedal Board’.
Where does this music fit into a crowded music world? Well, I can see this being great background music for a dinner party, providing a quirky sound track on a TV show, or even just something to cheer up a miserable journey to work.
Of particular note is ‘Island‘, with its faster tempo and snappy rhythm, title track ‘Soul Food‘ for its witty lyrics, and closing track ‘The Way Of The Sluggard‘ for its sheer length (9 minutes!), amusing title and completely weird lyrics. Then there’s the extended musical interlude that starts ‘Up Here Down There‘, and the classic jazz styles of ‘What The People Say‘.
The exquisite piano on ‘Grace‘ is only the start of a fabulous track. I love the warmth in the vocals, the almost Spanish sounding guitars, and those standout brass instruments that really are generously sprinkled all over this album.
I have to say that I enjoyed this album way more than I was expecting. Not being the kind of music I would normally listen to, I would certainly urge people to give this a try. It has a real happy, feel good factor, combining brilliant music with well delivered vocals in thoroughly enjoyable songs. – 4/5 stars. Louder Than The Music (UK)
The Darn Funk Orchestra began in 2006 as both a band and music project, the brainchild of drummer James Darn. Honing their live skills with both cover and original material, the band quickly gained popularity around the country. This debut album sees lyrics inspired by experiences and observations of life, their musical heroes and also by the Lord Almighty Himself. Style wise, this funky outfit are more Jamiroquai than Kool and the Gang, giving the overall sound an edgy feel. From the opening “Salvation Shoes” the musicianship is first class, and Darn’s vocals almost fit crooner in description. After putting Psalms 1 & 11 to music, “Island” sees the band almost in prayer, petitioning the Lord to show himself to the world and giving a sign that He’s real. The title track is a tongue in cheek nudge to preachers of all denominations that the words they speak should be food for the soul, and to choose their words carefully. The band’s sound is solid throughout, although I sometimes found the ad-lib of the trumpet solo’s to be quite distracting. “Grace” almost takes you back to 40’s swing and lounge music, with some excellent piano playing and sympathetic brass. I loved the melodic sound to “Postcard”. It has to be my favourite track on the album, where I think that Darn’s vocals are at their best. “Psalm 6” gets a messy production that left me quite bewildered, as did the closing “The Way of the Sluggard”. On the other hand, the message of “What the People Say” really comes across well, with a simply wicked tune. Overall, it’s an interesting debut and one that should make radio stations sit up and take note. 8/10. Never For Nothing (UK)
At long last the long overdue debut album from Britain’s Darn Funk Orchestra finally surfaces. Ten years on from their initial coming together, we have a collection of their original material straight out of their fun and funky live sets. This combo is the brainchild – and dream – of professional drummer, James ‘Jimmy’ Darn. Several line-up changes ago, the Orchestra began performing their mix of covers and originals at pubs, clubs, weddings and festivals. Points of reference are the obvious influences of funk, soul, jazz and ska, but they owe more to early Dexy’s Midnight Runners than, say, The Fatback Band. This all-white five piece have a full-on brass section attack, balanced by poise, precision and patience. Darn’s vocal delivery clearly evokes London-Essex rather than Chicago or Detroit and reminds me of various acid jazz acts of the early ’90s. With the sound of sweaty, late-night basement clubs, or Soho pizza-parlours, this outfit wouldn’t be too welcome at Ronnie Scott’s, however. Their overt Christian faith is too upfront, too prophetic and all the better for it. Here, the Orchestra reach a crescendo on four occasions when putting a Psalm to music. Of course, many of the Psalms were originally written “For the director of music”, centuries ago. Which is why a slight Jewish-influence on “Psalm 11” is rather apt, with strains of Oi Va Voy and eastern Europe a la Topol. This is the most convincing attempt at putting Psalms to music since Ian White, over 20 years ago. A need to emphasise the importance of challenging preaching is cleverly expressed by employing every food analogy and metaphor, along with trademark, catchy grooves and juicy guitars. A darn good debut – where will they take it from here? 8/10. CrossRhythms (UK)
Before you think I am swearing, the name of the band leader is Darn, James Darn. He is also the drummer and lead vocalist, so he is responsible for holding the timing as well as the quirky lyrics to match the funky sound. The band has been around since 2006 bringing an interesting blend to the music scene which has seen the demand for their sound and original recordings grow and finally they have recorded some of their music on this first original album “Soul Food”.
The first track gives a great idea of their funky sound as they put on their “Salvation Shoes”. It’s a great blend of Jazz funk, but less of the acid style that Beehive had in their sound. They have also decided to do something a few times on this album that many people don’t attempt. They have brought their sound and reinterpreted various worship Psalms – The first is the second track which brings us “Psalm 1”. These are words that will probably be familiar to you, but I don’t think I have ever heard a Psalm done quite like this and certainly brings something new to the industry. They follow this up with “Psalm 11”,which sounds as though they are bringing in some reggae influences with the trumpet intro and lines of the song being punctuated by trumpet solos.
The other Psalms that get a new soundtrack are “Psalm 6” and “Psalm 13” on the second half of the album. Psalm 6 brilliantly displays the despair of life in the early part of the song before picking up some great pace – this really makes this song work well and the section at the end of the last third has some great Jewish feeling to it. Psalm 13 is a much slower song that really concentrates on the words and has a middle segment of brass solo that carries a lot of the weight of the song and keeps the feeling the hope comes at the end of the psalm and this is reflected in a more uplifting tune that rounds the track out.
This album has plenty more to offer than just the funky psalms though. There are some interesting tracks on here that are not things that are always talked about. “Island” is a great song that needs a few listens to really grasp what the song is really all about. Then there is the clever food laden song “Soul Food” which is a challenge to preachers and teachers to give real food when talking, that we need to move on from milk to real meat and vegetables. After the frenetic action of the previous tracks “Grace” gives us a really simple song with a bit of brass and some piano with a simple vocal bringing out the virtues of the grace that we know from our wonderful God, this is definitely a great reflective worship song, although it is, in my opinion a bit drawn out at over 6 minutes.
The song that tugged me the most was “Postcard” which is a passionate song about someone who has moved away from the life of faith. It brings to mind many people who were on fire for God as teenagers, but for one reason or another got disillusioned with the church and decided that life elsewhere was better.
This album is a very fun and funky collection of original work. In a market that is over saturated with electro-dance music the sound of real trumpets and saxophones is a welcome change. For the most part this band is very tight in their songs with a great rhythm and brass section, however there are times when some of the brass instruments can be a little overwhelming, or take too much from the song with a lengthy solo. Having said that this is a fresh sound with a funky groove, but borrowing bits and pieces from other styles of music across the board to come up with a fantastic collection of “Soul Food!” 8.8/10 One Man in the Middle (UK)