ALBUM REVIEW: Black Pumas Make Classic Soul Sound New Again

But don’t call it “retro”…

Whenever you hear a contemporary band that channels the sound of vintage ’60s and ’70s soul, it’s tempting to label it as a retro act. That a generally unfair box to put any artist in, but especially in the case of Black Pumas.

Black Moon Rising, the debut album from the Texas tag-team of Adrian Quesada and Eric Burton, certainly captures the majesty of a classic soul or R&B record. But listen a little harder and you’ll hear elements of folk, gospel, psychedelic rock and modern hip-hop production. Some have gone so far as to describe them as “Wu-Tang Clan meets James Brown.”

Many will file Black Pumas alongside contemporaries like Durand Jones and the Indications or the Teskey Brothers, but even a cursory listen will tell you that the Pumas are ahead of the curve.

Burton’s booming voice is reminiscent of Robert Isley during the Isley Brother’s early ’70s heyday, while Quesada’s guitar and production is tighter than the snare drum snaps the record pivots on.

Every song on this album is effortlessly cool. The Pumas are able to change speed from a clap-a-long track like “Colors” to more soulful number like “OCT 33” without breaking stride. It’s this prowess and swagger that makes the album feel like an instant classic. They aren’t doing a song just because they had to; they’re doing each track because they want to.

Classified as a retro soul record, this album is definitely at the cutting edge. If they continue the way they’re heading, they’ll no doubt come up with a much cooler name than that.

Score: 🐅🐅🐅🐅/5