Southern Avenue: Keep On (Concord Records)

Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
I  just finished watching Tales From The Tour Bus Season 2: Funk, and I was a little down. I realized that other than Morris Day, everyone else featured in Season 2 is either retiring or deceased. For the retirement segment, we have George Clinton (farewell tour), Bootsie Collins (retired from performing), and Betty Davis (retired since 1979). For the deceased segment, we have James Brown, Rick James, and Prince (featured on the Rick James and Morris Day episodes). Now that I have the personnel down, the fact is that it looked pretty bleak for the funk.
Southern Avenue’s timing could not be better. They are carrying the funky torch forward to put their signature on a genre and art form that seemed to be in danger of extinction. Fear not young funk cadets because what I write next, I write with 100% confidence. Any fan of Funkadelic, Parliament, or any combination or permutation thereof, will be smitten with Southern Avenue. All is not lost, Southern Avenue is a serious funk contender. I don’t want to sell them short, they also do a pretty mean R&B also.
And then there is the singing and musicianship. Top notch doesn’t quite hit the mark. I need to think of something a little higher than top notch. Maybe top notch plus? Everyone in this band is a seriously solid contributor. The bass, lead guitar, drums, and lead and backing vocals are superlative. These talented folks are from Memphis, TN, birthplace of Johnny Ace, Junior Wells, and a whole host of people in the middle.
I think some band introductions are in order. On lead vocals, there is Tierinii Jackson. Her sister, Tikyra Jackson, is also the drummer and has backing vocals covered. Jeremy Powell is the man laying down all those funky keyboard licks. Lead guitar duties are performed by Ori Naftaly. On bass, there is Gage Markey. The horn section on Keep On is comprised of Art Edmaiston and Marc Franklin. All these folks are beyond talented on their respective instruments.
On to the music we go. Switchup (Track 4) is nothing short of a powerhouse. This number starts off with a sample of lead singer Tierinii. And it is funky as I don’t know what. Then we get this Meters-esue bass riff that is just groovy. Pepper in some funk organ riffs, vocals, and some seriously funky electric guitar and you have a winner. Switchup is a winner, no 2nd places for this one.
All the songs are winners. It is very difficult to pick just a few to showcase because there isn’t a clunker on this entire album. Whiskey Love (Track 2) is a track that I can’t ignore. Similar to the lyrics, “I can’t get enough”. Tierinii’s strong  voice is the focal point of this number. She shows off those strong pipes and how much legitimate range she has. Very impressive.
There is one pure blues number on this album and it happens to be the closer, which is a perfect choice. I wrote it before and I have no problem repeating it: Tierinii has an amazing voice. This is one of those special voices and to be paired with her sister Tikyra, that’s triple 7s. We’re Gonna Make It (Track 12) exemplifies those talents to the fullest. Gorgeous.
Considering this is one of my longer and more enthusiastic reviews, I think it is clear what my recommendation is. The torch has officially been passed. Hey George and Bootsy, make a little room for Southern Avenue.
Listen to Keep On
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