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Zilker Tent Stage
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With their forthcoming release Howl (out 5/21) JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound enters the next chapter of its soul sound evolution. In December 2012, the band holed up at Hotel2Tango Studio in Montreal to work with producer Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and dove headfirst into previously unfamiliar sonic territories and tough-yet-transfixing lyrical matter. By approaching the new album with this direct and free outlook, what began with the raw soul of 2011’s Want More advances in new, exciting directions.
Throughout Howl – the Chicago-based quintet’s third full-length album and second for Bloodshot Records – the dark side of love and longing is explored by frontman JC Brooks’s starkly personal lyrics and the Uptown Sound’s willingness to bare all their influences and let the grooves fall where they may. A collective evolution has been made where influence meets experience, and this organic progression results in 11 songs that are more open than ever both in message and vibe.
Howl is soul music by children of the post-punk era. It’s the sound of a band that cut its teeth listening to Purple Rain and In On the Killtaker, is drawn to the theatrical-cum-creative auras of Tina Turner and Otis Redding, and has most recently hustled big festival stages where adventurous listeners come away rejuvenated and undeniably converted.
With a taut minimalist blend of rock and R&B punctuating JC Brooks’s potent delivery and brutally honest words, Howl creates a mystique at the same time it induces sing-alongs and hip-shakes. Tracks like the eponymous “Howl” and “Rouse Yourself” are pleas for snapping out of emotional apathy, as in the latter when Brooks first coos in falsetto and then belts a cautionary chorus in harmony, “If we had forever / I hope we’d just get better / that’s why it’s such a shame / the ways we stay the same.”
Just as it embraces past artistic influences, Howl covers the range of emotion from celebratory pop to crestfallen ballad. “River” is vintage gospel narrative, complete with
Brooks’s solo show-stopping, open-throated vocal sear, and a rhythm section that could’ve backed the Memphis greats during the ‘60s. “Before You Die” struts with the carefree, party atmosphere of Tom Tom Club with auxiliary percussion, handclaps, and some Bernie Worrell psychedelic-pop wall of synth.
Formed in Chicago in 2007, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound consists of JC Brooks (lead vocals), Billy Bungeroth (guitar), Kevin Marks (drums, vocals), Andy Rosenstein (keys, vocals), and Ben Taylor (bass). JCBUS has toured North America and Europe, attracting an enthusiastic grassroots following while garnering the support of the likes of NPRand AAA radio with their eyeopening cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” (which they performed with Jeff Tweedy at Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival in 2011). MOJO Magazine called them “one of the hottest US soul acts right now”. JCBUS spent 2012 on the road supporting their previous Bloodshot release, Want More, with electrifying appearances at Lollapalooza and Bumbershoot, and an incendiary World Cafe Live double bill with Gary Clark Jr.Now armed with Howl, the band is hitting the road for spring East and West Coast tours, and a European leg leading up to Firefly Festival in June.