Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators
Liquid Room, Edinburgh, Sat 28 Apr; Renfrew Ferry, Glasgow, Sun 29 Apr
RETRO FUNK SOUL
With the release of Keep Reachin’ Up last year, Nicole Willis found herself the subject of funk-soul lovers’ adoration and press applause. But as much as she is pleased with the album’s outcome, the 20 year careerist who has recorded with Curtis Mayfield and opened for the likes of Gil Scott Heron as well as Jamiroquai and Brand New Heavies has taken this new found attention in her stride.
‘I didn’t expect that people would be so excited about it,’ says Willis, exhibiting distinct signs of interview fatigue. ‘I definitely think it’s a step in a better direction, but I have some pretty high expectations of myself. Maybe I wish that I could do better always.’ The Brooklyn-born singer-songwriter’s last album, 2004’s nu-soul Be It, was mixed and produced by her husband, the revered Finnish saxophonist Jimi Tenor, who has again cast his magic wand over some of this collaboration with Helsinki’s The Soul Investigators. This melting pot has led to an altogether more retro sounding release that captures all the control and exuberance of the 60s soul-funk originals.
‘I felt it was exciting to do something that wasn’t so contemporarily influenced, taking some references from childhood experiences,’ continues the one-time member of Deee-Lite. ‘So that was fun and it felt completely fresh to do it at that time. If you can always continue to keep it light and enjoyable that’s the most important thing, so that when you do have shows to do you’re really having a good time.’ Willis has unfortunately grown tired of straightening her hair, so we won’t be treated to the magnificent bob she’s rocking on the album cover, but the music and performance promise a perhaps more enduring delight.