Some genres of music are cyclical and subject to revival or periods of being in vogue. Classic soul and funk, though, are always as fresh as the morning’s catch. While Belfast band The Dead Presidents are burrowing their way through much travelled territory, they do it with such a swagger, smoothness and panache that they do more than just get away with it.
Their contemporaries in Ireland, Relish, are more rock/pop orientated than straight up funk and soul, while Republic of Loose borrow rather than brandish the building blocks of black music. Dublin and Belfast are alive most nights with big band funk and soul cover acts, but there are very few Irish bands plying their trade in these genres with original songs and this is what makes The Dead Presidents so interesting.
The debut EP, ‘Can You Dig It?’, is as much Sly and the Family Stone as it is Sam Cooke. Dancing With The Devil seems to combine both via the funked up guitars, the soaring brass, drop-beat drums and the silky tones of lead-singer Matthew Wilson – who ties it all together nicely. It’s even got the obligatory Brown-like “whhoo-aaah” and some strategically positioned hammond organ.
Fallin’ In Love Again allows the brass section to dominate proceedings along with an almost reggae rhythm and, again, Wilson’s vocals are as thick and soulful as can be, loud when they need to be and grounded and serene at other intervals.
Harking back to classic 60s Motown love songs, It’s Hard Being Perfect is beautiful and effective in its simplicity but Trying So Hard is more vigorous and funky with gnarled guitars, lively brass and backing vocals.
If you appreciate the work of modern purveyors of credible soul like Aloe Blacc, Vintage Trouble or Gary Clarke Jr. then it will pay you to familiarise yourself with this EP.