EP REVIEW: Jonah Hitchens & the Superband – ‘A Little Dedication’

Jonah Hitchens
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Jonah Hitchens A Little DedicationFunk is a genre that’s not really manifested itself in the 21st century music industry. Soulful vocals, synth keys and bass-driven melody are all elements that have been missing for quite some time, which is a disappointment. But I’m glad to say this. Really, really glad. It’s back with a vengeance. Jonah Hitchens may have begun dragging funk back, kicking and screaming into the public consciousness with his last release, Sugarcoated Sugarcane.

But with A Little Dedication, the jigsaw pieces fit nicely into place, and further signal Hitchens ascension to the upper echelons of funk and soul in Britain today. There are a few issues that mainly lie within the production and mix of the record. But with the budgetary constraints of an emerging artists, problems were sure to occur.

Production can be a challenge when under financial and time pressures. But if the overall sound is plagued by imbalance, any musical genius can be swept under a wave of misplaced sound. This is where A Little Dedication falls down the most. The production is too bass heavy in the first two tracks, even for the bass-guitar led genre that Hitchens performs. In places, the vocals and brass section are drowned out by a bassline that makes a funk sound, that could have sounded sharper, a little lumbering. One would contend that this is not the fault of Frazer Kerslake, the bassist. Nevertheless, it does affect the complete sound somewhat.

However, the listener is inclined to allow these production misdemeanours to pass. Not just because an apt usage of the tone controls on a set of speakers can rectify the problem, but because the rest of the extended play is so damn good. The vocals of Hitchens, a roaring, commanding lead, is one of the most impressive vocal performances this year. His syrupy, rich, soaring tones are superb to listen to. Particular praise can be heaped on his use of his electric guitar on Mrs Mysterious. The songs themselves are very well written, and a guitar solo at the right time in the aforementioned track really hits the sweet spot that modern funk has been predominantly missing for a decade.

Praise must also be given to the brass section. The three are superbly drilled, and don’t put a foot wrong throughout the EP. They provide a sublime backdrop for Hitchens vocals and guitar work. Although a more authoritative percussive line might have given the extended play a bit more bite, the drumming, when listened to in a concentrated manner is again on point.

Pernickety as these criticisms may seem, the fact remains that this record has the feel of a record that you could spin and spin. The mix may not be perfect, but A Little Dedication has the most important aspect needed. Character. It does not plod. It swaggers, with the panache of a band that knows its own quality and is aware of the standard it needs to be. Parts of the record are so reckless, so rich with wild musical abandon, that the only remedy is a sharp intake of breath and rigorous head nodding.

It is, as the late Stuart Baggs might say, not a one trick pony, but a field of them, with little intricacies that only reveal themselves on third, fourth or fifth listen. That’s a rare talent. Whilst A Little Dedication has its faults, one must only conclude that with a few tweaks, Jonah Hitchens and the Super Band can rise to the top of the pile.

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