It’s always an interesting experience to hear the debut output from a local band that you’ve seen play live; these things can go either way.
Happily, local 5-piecefunksters Doctor Zoot serve up a four track EP which manages to capture the sound and the feel of their live shows but in a well-produced package that demands your attention from the opening bars of the first track, Hundo. The EP is made up four original tracks and the overall effect is of a soulful and jazzy band who are not afraid to take older references and influences and bring them into a contemporary setting. Funk guitar, a solid R&B rhythm section, punchy keyboards and gospel-influenced choruses are all present and accounted for.
Lyrically, Hundo is an interesting take on honesty during what has been a trying and difficult year for many people, and Childre has huge echoes of John Martyn in terms of the vocals and guitar style. Actually, the more that I listened to this track, the more I was struck by a very direct similarity to Martyn’s epic cover of Portished’s Glory Box. Hard shoes to fill but no bad thing when it is carried off as well as this. Both tracks provide the opportunity for vocalist Joseph Toman to shine and his delivery is flawless, genuine and sincere. Songs of love and loss writ large and bold.
As the songs progress, there is a feeling of restlessness and unease that begins to surface; again possibly reflecting the global and personal upheaval experienced by people over the past twelve months. Let Me Do Something Nice For You was one of the band’s first attempts at writing and recording together and had previously been released as a single; apparently subtitled “Ridin’ Music” by their fans it does have a certain relaxed but persistent groove that might provoke the old hormones under the right circumstances.
Three tracks in and the band have already put most of their cards on the table, but one couldn’t help wondering if they had something else up their sleeve. Of course, if you have seen Doctor Zoot live then you will already know the answer to that particular question and the final track on the EP, Truth might just be their ace in the hole. Truth is a more up-tempo and pop-oriented tune and one that is guaranteed to get your foot tapping with a funky back beat and a melodic bass line provided by Calvin Wells.
For a debut release, Doctor Zoot manage to tick almost all of the boxes in terms of breadth of material and quality of songs. You can’t fault the musicality of the individual band members and they work together in a way that seems effortless and easy. The EP benefits from top-notch production courtesy of Matthew Greene of Greene Noise Audio and it is an arresting and confident statement of intent from a band who seem poised to take some big steps once live music is no longer a thing of the past.