Review by Benjamin Smith
The new album, Dyna-Mite, from New Orleans funkster extraordinaire, Jon Cleary, is a hip swinging, ass shaking, groove busting extravaganza from the very first bar of the very first track, ‘Don’t Tell Nobody’. This fact will probably come as no surprise to the clusters of Cleary fans spread out all over the world, but for the uninitiated Dyna-Mite is one hell of an introduction.
In one sense listening to Jon Cleary recordings is an exercise in torment. They are so locked up in the sense of place that New Orleans injects into every note that you can’t help but feel the dance floor bouncing, and smell the cocktails and feel the heat of the lights. The recordings do not, indeed cannot, do justice to the energy of a Cleary performance; but they come awful close.
Most of the record follows the standard formula for New Orleans funk in that it incorporates all the things that have come before and speaks in a language perfected over hundreds of years. Frankly why wouldn’t it? Cleary is a guy who does what he does as well as almost anybody in the world, so it’s a pretty clear case of don’t fix what ain’t broke. The exception to that rule on this record is the reggae/calypso infused syncopation of ‘Big Greasy’. It is a departure in form whilst retaining the essential character of a Cleary, NOLA piece. For me though, the stand out track is the six and a half minute epic ‘21stCentury Gypsy Singing Lover Man’. The slower tempo gives it a 3am feel and by that I don’t mean a-get-melancholy-and-cry-into-your-whiskey 3am, I mean a dance-cos-there’s-nothing-else-left-to-do-at-3am kind of 3am.That track is followed by Best Ain’t Good Enough, which is the companion piece to 21stCentury. It’s downbeat and there is probably more blues in this track than any other on the record, except maybe the equally sentimental ‘Frenchmen Street Blues’. The record ends with the decidedly sanguine All Good Things, rounding out the journey as a satisfying coda.
Interestingly Cleary is one of the artists taking advantage of opportunities created by online communities and this record was substantially the result of crowd funding opportunities. The artistic freedom made possible by that is welcome news for music lovers everywhere. Not that Cleary’s artistic integrity is in question, it just means that in an age where record sales have all but dried up he gets to keep doing what he’s doing.
If you’re looking for someone to reinvent funk for a new generation, then Jon Cleary and Dyna-Mite are probably not the artist and the record for you. But if what you’re craving is a singer / songwriter / pianist / bandleader / arranger / interpreter who can craft a sound from the history of place that gave funk life, this one’s worth a couple of spins.
2. Skin In The Game
4. Big Greasy
5. 21st Century Gypsy Singin Lover Man
6. Best Ain’t Good Enough
7. Hit Git Quit Split
8. I’m Not Mad
9. Frenchmen St Blues
10. All Good Things
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