When New Orleans native son Stanton Moore settles down behind his drum kit, what's sure to follow is enough electrifying energy and raw power to rebuild The Crescent City all by its own bad self.
Moore's rocking and rolling drums are pushed upfront in the mix, but they don't drown out Will Bernard's guitar and Robert Walter's keyboards. This trio is very much a democracy and there's plenty of room for each musician to go off on his own, while still staying within the framework of the band.
Nothing here is meant to be taken too seriously, as Emphasis! (On Parenthesis)
is all about the grooving and jamming. The real difference between "(Put On Your) Big People Shoes" and "Proper (Gander)" may be nothing more than how much longer or shorter one song is, compared to the other.
Walter's deliciously bent toy piano on the loopy "Wissions (of Vu)" and Moore's funky timekeeping sound as thought they were written for an over-the-top Quentin Tarantino flick. "(Sifting Through the) African Diaspora" features a reverberating bass line that will have you searching the liner notes for the musician, but it's only Walter working the bass pedals on the Hammond B3 to perfection.
"(Who Ate the) Layer Cake?" is straight-up, Jeff Beck-ish dirty rock n' roll complete with guitar riffs and thundering drum rolls. "Proper (Gander)" allows Bernard to go off on some high-flying solos as Moore anchors it all, bashing the hell out of his drums. All that's missing is a shaggy, long-haired blond lead singer (which isn't all bad). Moore can change up from funk to rock and back to jazz seamlessly, and seems equally at home with any genre he chooses.
The problem for any critic with an album like Emphasis! (On Parenthesis)
is they risk exposing the reader to paralysis by analysis. This isn't the kind of album you have to think about too much. Moore, Bernard and Walter are clearly having a good time and they want you to as well. This lean, mean and sassy album is meant to be played and enjoyed, not pondered.
There's not a wasted moment or a bad song on this album. It's a solid contender to be on many end of the year "Best of" lists.
Personnel: Stanton Moore: drums; Will Bernard: guitar; Robert Walter: Hammond B3, piano, toy piano and clavinet; Michael Skinkus: shakere (6); Robert Wilmott Walter: vocals (7).