A bold organ. Smooth humming. The squeal of a funky, wah-wah laden guitar. Pouncing of the percussion, and we’re off and running. “It’s Alright,” a mid-album slice of pure soul off of Crack of Dawn’s new LP Spotlight doesn’t waste any time getting us into the groove of things and taking us to a gravity free space where we can sail in between the melodies like we’re just another note resonating from the band’s amplifiers. If you’re getting the impression that there’s quite the psychedelic bend to Spotlight, then I’m doing a good job with my description. To say that psychedelia tinged funk ala George Clinton wasn’t a contributing influence on these cats would be a far stretch of the imagination, and Crack of Dawn doesn’t have any problems admitting just as much in their music. In a celebration of love, life, laughter and whole lot of truth, the band crafts their melodies around their deeply soulful introspections, and the result is an intoxicating meld of intricately arranged, jazz inspired cerebral R&B that could give the style the shot of adrenaline that its desperately been needing in the last few years.
Another one of my favorite moments from Spotlight comes in the second track on the album, “Somebody’s Watching,” which shows off how particularly well this group is able harmonize with each other as a singular entity without robbing any of the individual musicians in the band of their personal contribution. No one is competing for the spotlight here, just working together, and aggressively pushing a force together with a lot of sweat and determination to reach their climax all at once with no one left lagging behind (especially the audience). When everything is clicking and firing on all cylinders like it is here, we can’t help but get swept up in their energy and move to the literal beat of their drum. The smoky guitar parts are as visceral and flexible as the bittersweet vocals delicately placed in the valleys that exist between the crashing percussion and the furious timber of the basslines. There’s a little bit of showing off here, a little stutter step to create some distance there, and even a couple of relaxed moments where someone else picks up the slack. And still, it doesn’t sound like anyone is being particularly selfish. Crack of Dawn isn’t just playing a song here, they’re making love to the stereo.
Their energy reminds me of Tower of Power, one of my all-time favorite groups, but their identity is a lot harder to pin down. Maybe it’s because of their use of eclecticism. Maybe it’s that they don’t constantly use the same prose in each one of their songs. Or maybe it’s that they’re a fresh enough face to me that I, as a new fan, haven’t decided where I put them in the pop culture spectrum yet. But one thing is for sure; this group is the real article, and I plan on paying close attention to everything that they put out in the months – and hopefully years – to come.