published Friday, November 4th, 2011

British funk four-piece to lay down a groove at Rhythm & Brews

When British four-piece The New Mastersounds were invited to play in America in 2004, it was like stumbling into a fairy tale, said guitarist Eddie Roberts.

For years, they had performed funk music to mostly disinterested audiences in their native Leeds, and it was hard to believe when they landed a gig to open for San Diego funk legends The Greyboy Allstars at Chicago's House of Blues.

"We were like, 'Yeah, whatever, like that's going to happen,' " Roberts said via a phone interview from Honolulu.

After they took the stage, however, the differences in audience response on the other side of the Atlantic convinced them they were had come home, not left it.

"Our jaws dropped," Roberts said. "We thought, 'This is where we need to be rather than playing in Leeds in a dead music scene.' We never looked back."

Roberts founded The Mastersounds in 1999. United with the "quirky and spiky" drumming of co-founder Simon Allen, they began performing instrumental funk in what was, at the time, a thriving funk scene in the U.K.

That era soon petered out, however, and after that initial experience with American audiences, for whom funk needed no further explanation, the Mastersounds began touring here extensively.

Since their American debut, the Mastersounds have collaborated with a wide range of artists from The Neville Brothers' Art Neville to Portishead's Andy Smith.

Wednesday, they will take the stage at Rhythm & Brews with Denver's Fox Street Allstars.

Although best known as an instrumental band, with the release of its seventh studio album, "Breaks from the Border," The Mastersounds broke with tradition and began singing along with the music.

At first, singing was an unnerving change to 12 years of tradition, but ultimately, it's been rewarding, Roberts said.

"It was another way of connecting with the audience and humanizing it by taking down the barrier between the people onstage and the people enjoying it," he said. "Live, it's been a great sort of added dimension to the sets."

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @Phillips CTFP.

WHAT'S NEXT

Although their seventh studio album, "Breaks From the Border" was released Aug. 9, the band is almost done with its next record. Backing tracks are complete. All that remains before the spring release is to lay down and mix the vocal tracks, said founder Eddie Roberts.

DISCOGRAPHY

2001: "Keb Darge Presents: The New Mastersounds"

2003: "Be Yourself"

2005: "This Is What We Do"

2006: "Live at La Cova"

2008: "Plug & Play"

2009: "Ten Years On"

2011: "Breaks From the Border"

IF YOU GO

  • What: The New Mastersounds with Fox Street Allstars.

  • When: 10 p.m. Wednesday.

  • Where: Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St.

  • Admission: $10.

  • Phone: 267-4644.

  • Venue website: www.rhythm-brews

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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