Boulevards - Electric Cowboy: Born In Carolina Mud (Normaltown Records)

Boulevards – Electric Cowboy: Born In Carolina Mud (Normaltown Records)

First up, I wouldn’t normally commission a review of something that came out a whole month ago, but I’m making an exception in this case because it’s my own fault, as I thought it was due for release at the end of March, rather than February, when it did come out. Plus, it’s simply too good to ignore it.

Boulevards is essentially Jamil Rashad, a man blessed with a talent for writing effortlessly soulful slabs of summertime seventies funk. But it’s never completely retro, for while Electric Cowboy: Born In Carolina Mud often peacocks itself around with a Curtis Mayfield swagger, there’s enough of a modern twist – sometimes suggesting an affinity with The Black Keys – to prevent things coming across as a pale imitation of Boulevards’ forefathers.

Take ‘How Do Ya Feel‘ as a case in point. There’s definitely an admiring glance in Stevie Wonder‘s direction with its ‘Superstition‘ style backing, but you would never level any ‘copycat’ accusations at Rashad, because the next minute, the sounds you’re hearing are more akin to the jazz-funk of, say, ‘Down On The Street‘ era Shakatak.

Something I’ve always found to be one of the most soul-enriching experiences in life is when, in summer, the sun beats down on my back. I love that feeling, and Boulevards’ new album is like the musical equivalent of that. Just listen to ‘Hooked‘ and you’ll hear what I mean, carrying, as it does, a similar vibe to The Style Council‘s 1983 chart smash ‘Long Hot Summer‘.

That’s not to say that Cowboy is all smiles and brightness throughout. It isn’t. Indeed, during ‘Better Off Dead‘, featuring the vocals of Nikki Lane on irresistible form, things seem to take a somewhat darker turn, although it’s the first time you really notice it, at which point you track back through the earlier part of the record and realise this aspect has actually been there throughout. Consider the first verse, if you want evidence: “Something’s wrong with me/I can barely eat/I tell my pain to leave, I pass the bottle please/Nose is starting to bleed/Where can I take a seat?/Something’s wrong with me/I need a hit ya see.”

Still, the juxtaposition of such torment (even the opening track ‘Turn‘ begins with the lyrics: “There was a time, when I was a boy.  I wish I could fly/I fear all the time, wish I could smile/I’m mad all the time.”) with such a seemingly carefree, wistful soundscape works triumphantly and marks Rashad out as amongst the best in his field right now.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.