It’s no secret that Butcher Brown gets love around here. The relative quiet around the release of their new album Virginia Noir needs to be remedied, since this might well be the quartet’s best release yet. The band has continued to grow with time as well as through its many collaborations (maybe you caught them on Nicholas Payton’s Numbers) and side projects (see Corey Fonville playing with Christian Scott, among others, and DJ Harrison’s many solo releases, to name a few). On Virginia Noir, they’ve gravitated toward strong, funky grooves and relatively minimal solos from the band members.
Given the focus on the groove, it’s no surprise that Corey Fonville’s drumming on this is a highlight. Throughout the album, he’s bringing the strong drumbreaks that make or break music like this. Fonville is locked in with bassist Andrew Randazzo to give these songs their backbone. DJ Harrison on the keys and Keith Askey on guitar bring the lovely, floating chords and minimal solos that have enough variation to allow the grooves to breathe and morph as the songs flow along.
The whole album plays like a sophisticated beat tape (something like 2015’s Grown Folk), and brings to mind Man-Child-era Herbie Hancock in a number of places (compare “Labyrinth” here with Man-Child‘s “Bubbles”, for instance). While that comparison seems (to my ears, at least) unavoidable, I’ll also say here that the group is very successfully pulling off that style while bringing their own flavor to it. There are no real weak spots on the album, with each song serving to strengthen the whole, but “Fiat” was a particular standout with Fonville’s hard drums really driving that song forward. The title track has a bit of a different flavor, with some late ‘80’s/early ‘90’s R&B and a solid groove.
Virginia Noir is a perfect July release – music for hanging out by the grill, for driving around with your arm out the window. Pick it up at Butcher Brown’s Bandcamp page and stream it below.
Butcher Brown will be playing live over the coming months:
August 5 – Durham, NC – Beyu Caffe
August 10 – Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory
September 9 – Dublin, VA – Highland Farm
October 2 – Richmond, VA – Jackson Ward District
October 7 – Richmond, VA – Cary St. Cafe