The Funky Butt Brass Band has never had a problem outlining its influences. By amalgamating New Orleans-bred brass band funk and soul into a more rock-friendly setting (with a greater prominence of guitar and vocals than is normally found down South), the sextet is up-front about its love of Crescent City music. So for its second LP, the band digs up some classic NOLA soul (Allen Toussaint's oft-covered "A Certain Girl") and some newer fare (John Boutté's "Door Poppin'"). Guitarist and singer Tim Halpin adds his own gustatory tour of the city with the cheeseball "Fill My Belly," though the song makes clear that Halpin and company are only tourists — they belong in St. Louis. So You Can Trust the Funky Butt Brass Band is as much a love letter to the 314 as it is a tribute to the Big Easy. The band's take on Oliver Sain's "St. Louis Breakdown" makes this clear, though the vocal shout-outs to everything from Miles Davis to various local neighborhoods gets pretty close to pandering. It's a small quibble — words take a back seat to these spirited horns, Ben Reece's chameleonic tonal shifts on the saxophone in particular.
As anyone who has seen FBBB's blistering live set can attest, the group excels at dipping in and out of genres. Its take on the New Orleans staple "St. James Infirmary" is done up with a Latin shuffle, along with a little bit of Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" tossed in for good measure. Likewise, "The Devil Went Down to NOLA," itself a reinvention the Charlie Daniels Band classic, trades fiddle for a trumpet and breaks into some James Brown soul for the final duel. And the Brass masters aren't too choosy about where their funk comes from — like all wise men, these players respect the genius of Barry Gibb and turn the Bee Gee's "Stayin' Alive" from a downtown strut into a street party. But all funk is built on a foundation of fluid low-end, and in the absence of a bass guitar, Matt Brinkmann's sousaphone shoulders the weight with a syncopated, burpy groove. The FBBB sound has its roots in New Orleans, but the new disc makes it clear that its heart belongs here in St. Louis.
Want your CD to be considered for a review in this space? Send music c/o Riverfront Times, Attn: Homespun, 6358 Delmar Boulevard, Suite 200, St. Louis, Missouri, 63130. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.