Black Pumas self-titled debut sounds so much out of its own time that it’s amazing it came out in the last year instead of 50 years prior. It’s an astonishing collection of soul-drenched rock that would fit nicely in the Stax catalog.
The Austin-based duo, consisting of singer Eric Burton and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada got together after the guitarist recorded instrumentals, and was looking for someone to add vocals to them. Quickly, they came together with two singles, “Black Moon Rising” and “Fire”, both of which made the record. “Black Moon Rising” settles into a group that sounds similar to the same kind of backing that the Dap Kings once gave Sharon Jones. Burton’s falsetto glides across a Hammond B3 organ, while “Fire” is a much more upbeat number with a reverb-drenched guitar riff. Burton is accompanied by a classic group backing vocals. If you weren’t paying attention, you’d think this is a late 60’s/early 70’s R&B deep cut buried somewhere left of the radio dial.
“OCT 33” switches things up, and it feels like Black Pumas take on a song direct from Led Zeppelin III. Quesada does his best acoustic Jimmy Page, and Burton sounds like Otis Redding singing a torch song. It’s the album’s most striking, impressive moment.
Black Pumas is a record that doesn’t feel like a retreat or an approximation of a sound of years past. Instead, this is ten tracks of vital music that sits alongside the masters of this R&B/soul style. It’s often said ‘they don’t make it like they used to”, but in the case of Black Pumas, they actually did.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media