This piece was originally published here, on March 9, 2015.
In the post-“Uptown Funk” world we’re living in, big brass and a Morris Day attitude are all the rage. And “Ain’t Nothin’ Fancy,” the latest effort from local band ROXY ROCA, fits the bill quite nicely.
ROXY ROCA assign themselves labels like “powerhouse Southern soul” and “dynamite Texas soul,” and the sounds on “Ain’t Nothin’ Fancy” live up to those descriptions. Brassy interludes and saxophone solos can be found on nearly every track, and lead vocalist Taye Cannon sings like a gospel church leader. Even on the slower songs, you can still sway your hips. After all, if you believe the message ROXY ROCA seems to be preaching, that’s what the Good Lord intended you to do.
The band wears their influences on their sleeves, and they’re at their best when they indulge in some deep James Brown worship. “Try My Love,” for example, sounds exactly like “The Godfather of Soul” in all the best ways — the snappy vocal delivery, the powerhouse brass, the little stops and starts of the music. On “Cornbread,” ROXY ROCA truly embrace their Southern heritage. The song kicks off with some true gospel prophet delivery, features a sax solo and is frequently sprinkled with “uh”s that Brown himself would be proud of.
(Also, for the record, there are no euphemisms here –– the song is honestly about cornbread. Sample lyric: “Give me some buttah!”)
Overall, the lyrics on “Ain’t Nothin’ Fancy” are campy and, “Cornbread” aside, usually about seeking the love of a wild, captivating woman — or, to put it in their words, a “milk-fed, long-legged, heart-breaking, fat-backed, Cadillac, love maker Deville.” These songs won’t inspire deep thoughts, but they will get you dancing, and they’ll probably make you laugh.
“Ain’t Nothin’ Fancy” isn’t all groovy funk either. You’ll find some soulful slow jams too, like “I Don’t Wanna Dream No More” and “When the Lights Go Down.” But it’s the more upbeat songs, the ones where you get to guess which instrument is going to flare up next, that are the most interesting and fun.
Overall, this album is a good time that doesn’t require a lot of devoted attention. It’s a good option for adding some flavor into the background of your life. Put it on while you’re doing the dishes or while you’re on a 2 a.m. study break. Suddenly, your life will be an episode of “Soul Train,” and you’ll find yourself dancing around the room.