Funk is in the middle of a resurgence right now, no doubt about it, but funk of the slick, uptown variety is not the kind that Shoeshine Tommy play. The Defiance, Ohio-based quartet calls its hybrid sound “the fluezz” – that’s a combo of funk, jazz and blues, not this year’s newsworthy virus – and that term comes pretty close to summing up the moody mixture on the band’s debut album. At the same time, it perhaps understates the album’s rock influences. Maybe “fluekzz” would be a better, more comprehensive hybrid term for the music, but you can’t blame the band for not choosing it. Like funk should, these songs depend heavily on the band’s rhythm section – drummer Jon Spencer and bassist Edward Mason – and the blues often rears its head, too, sometimes even wearing a swampy cap as in Robert Chase’s acoustic slide guitar on “Baby Boy.” Jazz figures in, thanks to Chase’s wandering keyboards, although his synthy touches also sometimes bring to mind prog rock.
Underlying all the genre-melding, though, is an urgent darkness that could only come from the realm of rock, specifically metal and punk. Even if songs like “Good Times,” “Sunshine,” “Stop” and “Move Your Feet” turn a superficially happy, funky face to the world, there’s turmoil in the songs’ hearts. Often the darkness is lying right there on the surface – the grief of “Baby Boy,” for example, or the heartbreak of “Get on That.”
There’s very little smoothness in Kevin Eis’ vocals, and if that makes his voice not quite right for uptown funk, it’s perfect for the edgier stuff that Shoeshine Tommy play. (Evan Gillespie)