A collaboration between producer and multi-instrumentalist Adrian Quesada and singer/songwriter Eric Burton, Black Pumas fuse cinematic neo-soul, light psychedelia, and a touch of urban grit. Rising from their studio origins to become a hard-hitting live act, the group released their debut album in 2019. Through a mutual friend, Quesada -- a Grammy-winning Austin-based producer known for his work with Grupo Fantasma and Brownout -- connected with Burton, who'd been making the rounds in Austin's singer/songwriter scene since busking his way from Los Angeles in 2015. Burton's dynamic and soulful vocals were a perfect match for the retro-funk- and R&B-flavored tracks Quesada had been working on, and the two joined forces in 2018 as Black Pumas. Working out their material both in the studio and on-stage during a weekly residency at Austin's C-Boys Heart & Soul Bar, they signed a deal with ATO Records and released a pair of singles, "Black Moon Rising" and "Fire" in early 2019. Their acclaimed debut LP followed in June of that year and helped to earn the duo a Grammy nomination for best new artist.
© Timothy Monger /TiVo
© Timothy Monger /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released June 21, 2019 | ATO RECORDS
Faintly psychedelic, wholeheartedly vintage-sounding Cali-Tex soul duo Black Pumas consist of multi-instrumentalist/producer Adrian Quesada and singer/guitarist Eric Burton. Quesada, an Austin music scene veteran with assorted projects on the boil and in the past -- he won a Grammy with the Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma and was behind Look at My Soul: The Latin Shade of Texas Soul -- laid down the preliminary work in 2017 with some instrumentals. In need of a vocalist, he was put in touch with California transplant Burton, also a guitarist and songwriter. Burton's background in church, musical theater, and busking cuts through these ten studied originals, which are filled out with a supporting group of musicians covering the rhythm section, additional guitar and keyboards, plus horns, strings, and background vocals. The singer testifies with conviction, embodies roles ranging from troubled everyman to enamored lover -- with grit in varying grades -- and applies his experience in turning surprised heads within earshot. A substantial portion of the album is either reverential or referential to a degree that it can sound more like an exercise in homage or a licensing tactic than a distinctive work. Even before Burton enters with a resolute rumination, the start of "Stay Gold" unmistakably evokes rustic Bill Withers. In "OCT 33," Burton paraphrases the Stylistics as he gently implores his baby. Most cleverly, or distractingly, the first verse of "Know You Better" is stuffed with word strings that seem to deliberately reference groups such as Floaters, Parliament, and the Jackson 5. Quesada and Burton doubtlessly know and understand the source backward and forward. They're at their best when they diverge a little, like when they drag Willie Mitchell's Hi Records sound across the Texas landscape ("Black Moon Rising") or deliver stoned folk-soul on the level of Love and Rotary Connection ("Sweet Conversation"). © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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