With the success of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, and people appreciating the vocals and talent of Patti LaBelle, Bettye Lavette, while discovering older music by Betty Davis, I always wondered if there would be a slowed resurgence in older vocalists trying to take a claim of that high quality pie. I’m not putting it down, but what someone like Sharon Jones has done is give life to singers who have often resorted to other styles in music in order to make a living, if not be heard. Ava Andrews is the voice behind Dave Hanlon’s Cookbook, a group who show off their soul, funk, and jazzy influences with a very impressive album called Hot & Sweet, on the appropriately titled Tasty Tracks label.
Unlike bands who respect the ways of Northern soul and classic funk circa 1967-1969 by staying with the same style of instrumentation, Dave Hanlon (drums), Jimmie Spivey (bass), Ed Vivenzio (keyboards), and Lee Tiffault aren’t afraid to use modern keyboards to show that they are in modern times, not a retro act. However, the groove they create together make that keyboard sound something pleasing to you, and to be honest it’s not as big of a nuisance I thought it would be. The album has Andrews singing on more than half of the tracks, including two originals (“What Goes Up” and “Tic Toc”), but when she takes on James Brown‘s “(Get Up I Feel LIke Being A) Sex Machine)” and McFadden & Whitehead‘s “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now”, it will not only make you dance but want to head to their concerts and feel these new versions with everyone in the room. Spivey’s bass work is definitely solid, and working with Hanlon helps create a rhythm section that becomes a solid anchor throughout this album, whether it’s an uptempo dance track or something more mellow. The second half of “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now”, where they all play as if they know the album is about to end by taking it to the limit, is something that makes this and the entire album worth hearing. Hanlon gets his moment, and for the song to fade? Nooooooooooo… but if that’s a way of saying “to be continued”, then let the album ride into the sunset.
Andrews is not someone who belts it out, nor is she reserved, but what she does in the songs makes it sound pure. She knows how to play within and around the band, to where she is a part of the band. I say this because sometimes a singer will sound like nothing more than mere accompaniment, like a tambourine. Not Andrews, she is “one of the boys” and can maintain on her own. The instrumentals are well executed too.
This will most likely not get the kind of attention Sharon Jones has received, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from wanting to tell the world about Hot & Sweet. Like a good plate lunch or BBQ, it has the right about of tang and the right amount of sweetness that will make you feel satisfied and want you coming around for seconds AND thirds.