I’m always concerned when an established band decides to change their name.
Chicago band The Right Now started life back in 2005 as R&B/Funk band Eli Jones and the Bare Bones by Brendan O’Connell. A live EP was recorded by this band in 2006. A few lineup changes and the addition of Stefanie Berecz as lead vocals prompted the truncating of the name to just Eli Jones. The album Make It Right was released in 2007 under this moniker while still continuing to hold true to the band’s R&B and Funk influences.
History shows that bands with names that seem like they would belong to one person tend to be confusing– just look at Jethro Tull, for example. Add in the fact that Eli Jones didn’t have the domain name for the band and the name was becoming somewhat cumbersome. So, it was the switch in name to The Right Now in 2009 that allowed the band to kind of re-invent itself. All of the fans of Eli Jones who had seen the high-energy shows in the small bars across Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa were going to follow the band even after the name change.
When I saw the band in December of 2008 at Mahoney’s in Cedar Rapids, they were still called Eli Jones, but had already incorporated a lot of the songs that would make up their new album which they had planned to release in 2009 into their live sets. Carry Me Home is the first release by the band under it’s new name, and listening to the CD, I was taken back to that show with its memorable performances of “Ain’t Going Back,” “I Could Really Hold On,” “Doing Nothing,” “Carry Me Home,” “Nobody,” and “Before I Know Your Name.”
Getting ready for this review, I pulled out my copy of the Eli Jones album Make It Right for comparison. It’s an album I listened to quite a bit back when the band was rolling through the area. I thought it was really good– certainly the work of a band accomplished in R&B and Jazz, but felt ultimately it didn’t capture the energy of their live set. Make It Right really seems to be the sound of a band in a transition– some of the tracks have the familiar throwback R&B strut, while other tracks evoke a more jazzy step.
Carry Me Home is the result of a very focused effort in the studio, apparently. The whole CD sounds like it was recorded in one marathon session– a balanced, almost live-to-tape sound. It has a polished production for certain, but not at the risk of the continuity. I find myself listening to the whole album when I put it on– I anticipate the next track at each song.
In some respects Carry Me Home is an album out-of-time– at once holding true to a retro R&B sound with its horns, stomps and claps and sneaking in a more current R&B edge in the form of lead singer Stefanie Berecz powerful lead vocals.
The album runs the gamut of emotion and energy from bright, sunny Tower-of-Powerish horn-driven songs like “You Will Know,” to the Motown harmony-mixed with clean funk picking “Before I Know Your Name” to the distinctly Southern R&B swing of “Doing Nothing” to the slow burner “Carry Me Home.” “Before I Know Your Name” was co-written by Stefanie and Brendan O’Connell (the conductor of this Soul Train) to her then-unborn child– the idea of which makes me smile when I listen to the lyrics.
It’s also worth noting that The Right Now also has a 7″ out of a non-album track “7 to 10” which they recorded in Memphis in September 2009 at Scott Bomar’s Electraphoic Recording Studio live to 2″ 8-track tape! The flip is “The One You Love” from the album. On the return trip they took the master to Larry Nix at the legendary Ardent Studios who cut the plates. They hand-delivered the plates to United Record Pressing in Nashville and got a tour. Here is Brendan’s MySpace blog article about the experience (with video!).
It seems there are a lot of notable acts delivering the Stax/Motown-influenced sound today– Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings seems to be leading this front, certainly the last Amy Winehouse album (which uses members of the Dap-Kings), Joss Stone— so it takes a strong but distinguishable effort for a band to not get lost in the comparisons. It’s clear that The Right Now shows respect for the legacy of R&B, Soul and Funk that came before it, but in my opinion the band is building from that tradition.
One can consider the new band name as the answer to the question of what period of popular music they might draw from– no specific period, but obviously writing and performing in The Right Now.
The band just kicked off a run of shows which will bring them back to Eastern Iowa in April. On Friday, 4/16 they will be taping a second Java Blend show (the first as The Right Now), doing an on-air on IPR and hitting The Blue Moose Tap House. On Saturday, they’ll be performing at The Redstone Room in Davenport opening for Daphne Willis and hitting their favorite Iowa stop, Mahoney’s in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, 4/18.
Visit The Right Now Store to order Carry Me Home or the “7 to 10″ 7”
Click Here to visit The Right Now collection at archive.org for some streaming and downloadable live shows.
Click Here to visit The Right Now website.
Click Here to visit The Right Now Facebook Page
Here is where they Twitter.
Click Here for The Right Now on Bandcamp
Click Here for their last.fm page.
Click Here to visit The Right Now iLike page with videos and mp3’s.
Upcoming Shows (from MySpace):