It’s hard to resist a band with so much love for its roots. Beginning the journey in 2007 in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound has quickly landed sets at Lollapalooza and Chicago Gospel Fest. Now the group, which is signed to Chicago’s own Bloodshot Records, is touring the United state and Europe.
The band’s sound is an obvious nod to soul greats like Ray Charles and Otis Redding, but JC Brooks’ style is a rare gem.
Although soulful blues is combined with rock ‘n’ roll (think Black Keys and Fitz and the Tantrums), JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound visit a similar, but lesser traveled genre. The band, who has gained quite a name for itself as raw showstoppers, blends a funky, post-punk sound that is irresistible.
The group, often suited-up in retro attire, plays the part of new-age soul with ease. Maybe, it’s because JC Brooks and company are perfectly fit for the part. Imagining the bluesy vocals or thumping bass line in any other from just seems wrong. It’s also not surprising that the clan is well accustomed to theater. Brooks stared in production of “Ragtime” and a version of the Tony-award winning “Passing Strange” in Chicago where his band served as the house band.
JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound received high praise for their Wilco cover, “I am Trying to Break Your Heart,” off their 2011 release Want More, but “Everything Will be Fine” is infectious. It’s hard to listen to the tune without feeling a sense of badassness.
After a drum beat rolls, JC Brook’s deep, raspy howl chimes in. To hear only Brooks’ vocals, you might imagine him as much older than he is. His cigarette-tinged and soulful, crackling voice fits like a puzzle piece into the 1970s groove. At times, his falsetto is clean and crisp and other times it rattles with powerful emotion.
Guitarist Billy Bungeroth, drummer Kevin Marks and bassist Ben Taylor make up the core group of the Uptown Sound that provides Brooks with a soulful backdrop. The uplifting tone of “Everything Will Be Fine” is the perfect accompaniment to a warm summer night and a dancing partner. And the song’s lyrics are reassuring for anyone feeling down in the dumps, although, the possibility of feeling down during this song is unlikely.
That’s not to say the lyrics aren’t aggressive. Brooks packs a punch with songwriting, but it’s his delivery that really stands out. He yearns for that encouragement, making sure everyone listening knows that, well, everything will be fine.
Brooks’ vocals continually reiterate the future of the unknown and the instability of the present doesn’t matter. The song exits on the lyric, “I know in time, everything’s going to be so fine, yeah.”
JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound has spun a rebirth of Chicago blues, and it’s hard not to reference a certain suit-clad, shade-sporting blues duo. But in the age of musical revivals that get processed by technology, JC Brooks strays away from modernization. From vocal styling to horn sections, JC Brooks is like a blast from the past with expansive power. The group’s album art, photography and music videos are even tinged with a vintage dust. These gentleman have some major swagger.