Get ready for a full frontal funk attack with Hambone Relay’s latest album “Free Hugs”. Led by the second generation of Hammond B3 players, the band features Mark Brown on keyboards, and University of the Arts classmates Rob Tait on drums and percussion, plus the double trouble bass/guitar talents of John Udinsky. Hambone Relay who tours regionally up and down the East Coast, can funk it out with the best of them, but they also like to showcase how all sorts of music can come together and push the boundaries of what funk music is. Reimagining the genre, they keep it all fresh by incorporating elements of blues, jazz, R&B and some good old rock ‘n’ roll.
“Free Hugs”, the band’s second full-length release, is more than a worthy funk record that delivers pleasures from start to finish. You get flavors of funk that takes you back to the day when funk ruled. It’s a welcome departure from the current urban landscape that is sounding tired, tired, tired.
Every track encompasses a different slant; from the opening fusion-funk driven, “Tenth & Market”, to the airy jazz stylings of “Boilemaker”, and then the Blues inspired “Peacefully Idle”. On both these track John Udinsky delights and teases with his clean and tasteful guitar musings.
Things heat up even more by the time you reach the psychedelic groove of “(We Gonna) Make It Right”, where both John and Mark Brown step up to the plate. “Scoop and Slap” is a great vehicle for Rob Tait to shine with his time keeping and creative rolls.
But John Udinsky won’t give up the ghost, and lays into the track with some down and dirty lead soloing, which is equally challenged by some great call and response Hammond playing by Mark Brown. That the trio is on the boil here would be an understatement.
For all of us who appreciate strong grooves, outstanding musicianship, and creativeness nurtured on history and tradition, this is one of the best bands out there. And if you’re thinking that Hambone Relay can’t tone down and slow-burn, listen to the title track, “Free Hugs”, and think again!
The fast-paced closer, “Sick-Brah”, will certainly raise the roof with the combined power of Mark Brown, Rob Tait and John Udinsky on an all-out jam. Grooving-wise it doesn’t get much better than this. These guys have a great chemistry together. So many of today’s artists don’t know what direction they are going from track to track.
They just don’t have a clear idea of who they are. Hambone Relay know exactly who they are and where they’re coming from, and the result is a very tight band and that can groove it up or tone it down without losing their identity.
These cats can do it all, but they do it with a sound all their own; incredible grooves, pockets, breaks and solos are all over this record. Every track burns and funk, jazz, and soul fans will instantly love it, but this is truly a great record that should make waves in all music circles.