REVIEW: Skip the Needle’s “We Ain’t Never Going Back”

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Skip the Needle – We Ain’t Never Going Back – Little Village Foundation – Review John Apice

At first, I didn’t hear an Americana link. As I got further into the groove there were slithers of what made American music the influence that it is. The melodies are soulful, there’s a thread of World music. “Battle Cry (Ay Ay Ay)” — from the soil of Sly & The Family Stone is old school, has a little bite of Graham Central Station with the added kick of Ballin’ Jack without horns. But – while this tight all-female unit is not folk music or alt-country it has a down-home urban, folk music flavor that seethes with a message & is quite eclectic.

It’s not all screams, funk or urgency. These are well-thought-out energetic menus with the passion that most folk-rock possesses.

“B What U Want 2 B,” is uplifting about individuality with a nice Glenn Thomas (Ballin’ Jack) style lead guitar that drips of feeing & is dynamic. He carved out fascinating riffs & the female guitarists here with Skip the Needle – Katie Cash (Mavis Staples) & Shelley Doty — is exceptional. Their notes soar, & though this is not folk-rock or country – it’s what America would consider urban folk, unfiltered in a swing tradition.

Track 4 “The Keys,” – written by Katie Cash — unfolds with a Grateful Dead hue by way of Hot Tuna. Female vocalists (which include 2 guitarists (Cash & Doty), along with R&B-soul bassist, percussionist Vicki Randle & drummer Kofy Brown) lay down some serious solid rhythms. The vocal arrangement excites & the song arrangement is thorough.

Track 5 is vintage Joan Armatrading – “Music Saves My Life.” Infectious melody & rhythm it has that Armatrading forward motion, maintains the city-folk technique — surges & aches with desperation & optimism in unison.

The vocalist (unknown specifically) is soulful folk. This LP has a little beast within it. It’s stellar. While at times the vocals scrape along Chaka Khan borders, listening closer with its tribal beat in “Kingdom Playground,” this track is more a celebration of freedom than a protest. Fuzz guitar adds a nice touch under a scorching lead guitar & this folk music has a borderline Native American feel.

However, the final song – the title track – the thread does not fit the eye of the needle. “We Ain’t Never Going Back,” – has a hint of the wild excursion the late Eugene McDaniel’s (“A Hundred Pounds of Clay,” “Chip Chip,” & “Tower of Strength,”), took in his classic maniacal 70’s LP “Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse.”

But the song “We Ain’t…” doesn’t hold together like all the previous songs. While McDaniel’s had some interesting tracks on his wild LP compared to his top 40 hits – Gene was a polished pro & maintained the madness with style & intensity. This last song by Skip the Needle loses its focus. 

It sounds like a last-minute decision to include it…for some reason. Maybe a commercial reason. A poor reason. It’s not worthy of inclusion. 

The majority of the other tunes on this LP are far better. Held together by their durable arresting blends. Play all songs through track 8 — then stop or open a jar of aspirin. 

Produced by Skip the Needle with Jim Pugh: Executive producer for Little Village Foundation. Purchase through the Little Village website & Bandcamp. Release date July 25, 2019.

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Website:  https://www.skiptheneedle.com/

Little Village Foundation: https://www.facebook.com/littlevillagefoundation/

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