Gideon King & City Blog’s new single “Skunks Misery Road” hails from the band’s latest EP release Splinters. Composer, bandleader, and guitarist Gideon King heads an 8 member lineup whose musical gifts allow King to cover an extraordinarily wide breadth of styles. The strands of fusion jazz, funk, and soul present throughout King’s songs shift restlessly, sometimes in the same song, and well-written lyrical content that’s a cut above your everyday fare further distinguishes the material. The band’s trio of five-star vocalists provides them with an unique elasticity rather than hemming them in with one particular sound.
Relaxed jazz-influenced piano runs open the song. Glittering phrases unreel from the keys and set a laidback stage for what follows, but the percussive quality in the playing is another key to the song’s opening. It isn’t pronounced, but nevertheless provides an early pulse for the song. It’s nearly the one-minute mark before the vocals enter the frame and they seamlessly announce themselves. The effortless mix of two male and a single female voice is a primer for how to incorporate such elements into a composition. Their presence is letter-perfect.
The lyrics hold several surprises. They are exceptionally well-written and broach familiar topics with unique imagery and language that has no immediate antecedent. The three-part vocal harmonies break off into solo performances supported by backing vocals from the other two singers, but their joint performances are full of flawless transitions that help make the singing come across as a wholly unified listening experience.
Other instrumentalists make their presence felt. Bassist Jeff Hanley plays well throughout the performance and the two-handed percussion team of Jake Goldbas and Christian McGhee weave loose yet attentive patterns throughout the track. Bryan Reeder’s aforementioned ivory-tickling remains a key focal point of the song’s musical identity.
Rarely has a jazz-fusion effort sounded so fresh while partaking of various styles. You won’t hear any of the band’s funk inclinations rising to the surface, but Sonny Step, Michael Mayo, and Ashley Hess’ vocals do dive deep into soulful territory without ever sounding cliché. King’s songwriting as well as both the collective and individual performances strike a well-observed balance between the panoply of “voices” present in the material.
The song runs a little longer than four and a half minutes. King and City Blog manages to work on an impressive number of ideas during that span of time without the arrangement ever sounding unduly cluttered. “Skunks Misery Road”, instead, is an uniformly airy and inspired musical experience. You get the feeling from the outset that you’re in the hands of master musicians who know exactly how to push your emotional buttons.
They do so with deep feeling, technical skill, and a polished performance. You’ll be hard-pressed to hear any holes in their performance. Gideon King & City Blog conjures near effortless magic from the ground up and draws you in with their expert musical wizardry. It’s a satisfying performance from first note to last that you’ll want to revisit. It doesn’t get much smoother than this.