Sunday, November 29, 2015

Report to the Dance Floor : Tomas Doncker's "The Mess We Made"

Many of our long time readers will recognize  Tomas' name as he spearheaded the Global Soul movement in New York and strived over the years to find the place where heart and art meet. So what happens when that heart gets heavy? Tomas writes songs about it. "The Mess We Made" was a reaction to the shooting on June 17th in Charleston, SC, where 9 people were killed. Doncker believes soul knows no color might be angry, but he places his vitriol in it's proper channel to look at the problem rather than the symptom. He picks up where Gil Scott Heron left off when he announced  the revolution will not be televised. In fact he calls bull shit on the revolution, as it is seeking corporate sponsorship. At one point he even rallies a George Clinton like chant of "take off your hoodie and pull your pants up". Blues is still the back bone to his sound, though experimental elements find these songs at the  cross roads of  where hip-hop emerged from funk in the grooves. In these socially charged times of tension, it should be the job of the urban poets to stand up and have something to say, yet hip-hop keeps getting dumber and glorifying the stereotypes. There is almost a break beat to "Church is Burning Down".  The impassioned vocals reach up into a falsetto for certain accents, as the chorus is chanted over the driving beat.

He ponders what Hendrix's musing on if six was nine and how social media only gives us a happy post card to a false escape. While the message is at the forefront this doesn't impede  his acclaimed guitar playing to make an appearance. Eventually the album comes to a turning point and returns to his more organic roots. On "Don't Let Go" he looks at some of the economic struggles of the lowered middle class who feels the divide broadening as they slide downward to join the legions of Americans only avoiding homelessness by living pay check to paycheck. He gives a very soulful take on U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking Forward" with the solo section reminds me more of Frank Zappa, and many of the vocals on this album remind me of Ike Willis.

Things get funkier for "Blood and Concrete' , while soulful funk is a currency his music normally trades in their is a more serious and biting tone thanks to the sardonic lyrics. The album closes with the more hopefully upbeat "Time Will Tell". I think it is fitting that this album ends on a more positive note, as music is the connecting thread of the universe is what Doncker's vision has been about. While this album is full of real talk,  the music also speaks . It says "at the end of the day losing yourself in the groove and melody are what is the saving grace when the world seems to be closing in on you and hope is not in sight. It's the vibrational frequency, tune in and drop out of the bull shit being pushed on you by the media, presidential candidates, and terrorists both at home and abroad. This is funk for the thinking man, and soul for the urban shaman. Another triumph for Doncker.

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