I’m a little late to The Soul Of John Black appreciation party, but let me tell you, since discovering TSOJB’s latest studio release Good Thang, I am not only a convert but a fanatical, practicing member of this faction. John Bigham is perhaps best known for work with Fishbone or as Miles Davis’ sideman but his resume also includes work on Everlast, Nikka Costa, and Eminem projects. Adding his alter-ego The Soul Of John Black to the mix shows he’s the consummate musician and artist with lyrics and silky vocals to match his sharp guitar and keyboard abilities.
Good Thang is the third studio release for John Bigham under the TSOJB moniker and the second with Yellow Dog Records, (The Good Girl Blues being the other). While this is my current obsession and what turned me on to JB in the first place, I will definitely work my way backwards in his catalog and check it all out.
While it feels Good Thang is steeped in the past, it’s very strongly rooted in the present and maybe even future with the opening and closing tracks -"Digital Blues" and "Dream (Turn Off The Phone)" centering around and addressing our ever-growing dependency, need, and addiction to digital conveniences. Certainly there are throwback sounds and hooks on this album but JB brings it around with updated space age-y sounds blended with synth-driven funk to where you truly can’t tell if it’s new or something you heard as a kid on the way to the river with your family. "Good Thang" is one of those songs; I can close my eyes and picture it being blared from my parent’s station wagon while we kids tubed down the river or sat on a warm rock eating a slice of watermelon.
Where "Good Thang" starts off with "I got it good, y’all" talking about his life and his love, the next track "How Can I" keeps this story going with the line "How can I get you to love me?" that immediately sounds like a Teddy Pendergrass song; it’s sexy, slow, and harkens back to the ‘70s and ‘80s eras of R&B, this is baby making music if I’ve ever heard it.
We stray off the new love theme for a couple songs "Oh That Feeling" to an ex-lover to whom JB sings "I used to love you, used to need you, I used to want you, oh that feeling's gone" which is a pretty clear message to me. "Oh Brother" is the first song I’d ever heard off this album and while it drew me in immediately is a nice little blues/funk number, the next song "Strawberry Lady" is what sealed the deal that I had to have this entire album, not just a few choice songs.
"Lady" is more a song of lust and awe than a love song but it ties in to the other love songs on the album and pushes us along from where we were on "Good Thang" and "How Can I" to a more advanced stage in the relationship. That leads us perfectly into my favorite song on not only this album but on any album right now: "Lil Mama’s In The Kitchen." This song sounds and feels like a hug and the lyrics are some of my favorite with JB narrating how he’s working in the back room "trying to think of a way to win" while "Lil mama’s in the kitchen cookin’ it up." It sets the scene of his girlfriend "in the family way" who is happily taking care of her man, being domestic, while he plans and schemes to make a good life for what is about to be a trio. It’s a cozy, optimistic, loving song.
"New York To LA" has a lazy, sultry, neo-soul feel to it and with Nikka Costa’s backing vocals reminds me a lot of an Erykah Badu song. "I Love It" is a little more rockin’ and leads in sublimely to the closing track "Dream (Turn Off The Phone)" which is JB singing his Lil Mama to sleep and talking her down from a hectic day and life, telling her "…come over baby, I’ll be good to you, just lay back and kick up your feet, stay for a little while and rock you to sleep." It’s a perfect ending to an album that is a fun ride from start to finish and provides the perfect backdrop to cooking for your family, driving around, or lying in bed trying to relax and unwind from your own day and hectic life.