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Published: 2016/12/02
by Larson Sutton

Hannah Williams & The Affirmations
Late Nights and Heartbreak

The neo-retro soul movement that has been happening for the past decade on the other side of the Atlantic has been carried in large part by women. The late Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone are two Brits that stand out for their understanding of genres and production that echo past eras but with a modern perspective, either lyrically or in their use of the studio. The latest to combine that groovy vibe of the ‘60s and ‘70s with present day is Hannah Williams, teamed up with English funk machine The Affirmations, and produced by Heliocentrics’ head man and drummer Malcolm Catto. Together they churn out a Saturday night party playlist that ranges from the psychedelic inclinations of “Dazed and Confused,” (more akin to Jake Holmes than Led Zeppelin), to dancing invitations “Tame in the Water” and “Fighting Your Shadow.” The Affirmations’ brass section accentuates the sharp turns of a jar-tight rhythm section and jabbing electric piano, while Williams slips smoothly in and out of the pocket, sounding seasoned and confident, like a grittier, street-wise version of Carole King, particularly on the title track. She’s wise enough to leave wide spaces for the funk and soul to bubble and shake, deferring to harmonies on “Woman Got Soul,” that punctuate a collective driving ensemble while declaring a solidarity among the ladies. To some degree, Late Nights and Heartbreak sounds a bit like a lost Blaxploitation movie soundtrack, and that’s a high compliment. This isn’t an album of shortcuts and approximations of a mood or a feeling; it’s the real groovy deal.

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