Reviewed by John Cheek
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?
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