Hello fellow crate diggers, soul crusaders, and general beat enthusiasts. This is the Fonk Force Five, a weekly segment where we review an album for each of the fingers on your left hand.  These albums may vary in genre, but each one is 100% soul certified.  Don’t forget to stream a playlist of some choice cuts from each artist at the end of the article.

Lettuce – FLY
These guys know how to party. I first saw Lettuce at Gathering of the Vibes in CT back in 2009. A late summer storm tore apart the park, creating a giant mud pit in which all the freaks stomped to the full body assault that is a Lettuce concert. Lettuce plays a relentless brand of funk, and on FLY, their latest LP, they have taken the party to a different stratosphere.  Until their previous albums, FLY flows from planet to planet, picking up psychedelic party favors only to drop you in an uncharted galaxy. Upon first hearing the album I wondered why I was sweating. Six songs deep I realized I had been dancing at a feverish pace to the each riot anthem. FLY is the perfect soundtrack for any late night dance party, sweaty dive bar, or backyard chili cook-off. Pop this shit in your CD player, light up a blunt, cruise down Lake Shore Drive, and let the funk take over.

Ryan Montbleau – For Higher
Ryan Montbleau is a soul singer out of New England who has rocked local crowds for over a decade. His new album was recorded with New Orleans veterans George Porter Jr. of Funky Meters fame on bass, beard enthusiast Anders Osborne on guitar, and pocket holder Simon Lott on drums.  If there is one new artist you check out in 2012, make it Ryan. His soulful vocals ooze out of the stereo like warm syrup over blueberry pancakes. For Higher is his breakthrough album, the type of project that you throw on in the morning while scrambling eggs and don’t turn off until after you’ve roasted the last late night s’more.  This guy can get down, his lyrics are inspirational, and this band can really fucking jam. Lead track “Yeah Man” is an instant classic, and “Burning and Hiding” is a certified party starter.

Dr. John – Locked Down
Mac Rebennak keeps reinventing himself and pushing his career to the limits. Like most Yankees, I first witnessed Dr. John while watching The Last Waltz as a child. As a pre-teen he reminded me of the New Orleans Elton John: a grizzly, flamboyant pianist with that characteristic zydeco sound. The Night Tripper has come back with one of the best albums of the year. Locked Down has a raw, bluesy feel mixed with that unmistakable New Orleans swagger. Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys produced and help write the album, which is definitely apparent on rocking tracks “Getaway” and “You Lie.” Rebennak and Auerback turned out to be a match made in heaven, and the end product is the perfect choice to soundtrack your next gumbo competition or even just the next time you sprinkle powdered sugar on some piping hot beignets.

Big K.R.I.T. – Live From The Underground
The Mississippi native brings visions of Pimp C and classic Dungeon Family in an updated style on his debut LP. Live From The Underground is K.R.I.T.’s way of kicking the door down, breaking out of the underground and into the spotlight.  His super smooth production style is complemented by his southern twang. His previous mixtapes leaned heavily on a funkier, more soulful approach, and while LFRU stays true to this style, it’s K.R.I.T.’s more up tempo tracks that catch my attention. “Cool 2 Be Southern,” “I Got This,” and “Yeah Dat’s Me” all straight up bang. Blast those tracks if you need to get any party started, but if you want to relax on the stoop with a couple of white owls, throw on “Porchlight” and “Hydroplaning.” Hungry? Blast LFTU on your way to get some Harold’s Chicken.

John Scofield – That’s What I Say: John Scofield Plays the Music of Ray Charles

We travel back in time to 2006, when jazz guitarist extraordinaire John Scofield gathered an all star cast to pay tribute to one of the greatest musicians of the past century. That’s What I Say is one of those classic jazz albums that many folks probably missed when it was released six years ago. Scofield usually sticks to instrumental music, but for this special occasion he recruited Mavis Staples, Dr. John, Aaron Neville, Warren Haynes, and John Mayer to provide vocal duties. This album swings. Throw this album on while doing the dishes and they’ll disappear before Sco’s closing solo on “What’d I Say,” which features each vocalist sharing the love. Each vocal track follows an instrumental where Scofield shines, letting his guitar pierce our souls and hopefully has Ray tapping his feet in the clouds. This album is the perfect soundtrack for any meal that includes mango salsa, tall jugs of sangria, and some sort of meat cooked over an open flame.
Until next time,

Peace, Love, and Soul.


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