by Ian Thomas
Freelancer Ian Thomas reviews The Right Now's latest, The Right Now Gets Over You, in advance of the band's show at Thunderbird tomorrow night.
When listeners tune in to a new band whose members bill themselves as performers of music of generations past, they are doing so, at least in part, to see if the band falls on its collective face. There is a great deal of hubris inherent in claiming a place within a genre, such as Chicago soul, whose landmark output is at least two generations removed from the present. For the band, there is little to be gained. To live up to the claims, to perform within the confines of the genre, within the accepted parameters of song structure and subject matter, in most cases, is only a success in the sense of capturing a sense of nostalgia. On the flip side, if a band claims to perform music of the past, but inserts too much of themselves, or too much contemporary subject matter, the claim is reduced to a selling point, a marketing gimmick.
To their great benefit, The Right Now are a Chicago-style soul band who actually hail from Chicago. They can walk the streets of the city where Chess Records was founded and Curtis Mayfield recorded the Superfly soundtrack, steeped in the history of the art form. To the benefit of the listener, The Right Now is content to leave to the critics any discussion of whether they are the real deal. By performing with absolutely earnest sincerity, without a hint of irony, the musicians of The Right Now make a compelling case that they are. As a band performing by-the-book soul music multiple generations after by-the-book soul has left popular culture consciousness, The Right Now gets it right, albeit in broad strokes. Even when they fail to match the passion of classic soul, a difficult task under the best of circumstances, they make up for it with their technical proficiency. It is clear that The Right Now view themselves as students of a craft and they strive for mastery.
The album, The Right Now Gets Over You, plays like a genre retrospective. From the sultry sensuality of “I Could Kiss You (I Could Cry),” to the swinging, brassy arrangement of album-opener “I Can’t Speak for You.” Even in the wake of Amy Winehouse, Adele, and all the other artists that surprised critics and audiences with the authenticity of their takes on storied genres, vocalist Stefanie Berecz’s performance on this album is still something to behold. While her voice is remarkable in its own right, she positions herself as a member of the collective, not the driver of the vehicle. That takes confidence. Everyone in the group gets their turn to shine and, in light of that give and take, the complicated arrangement sounds more natural. In the current mixtape climate, where immediacy is prized above all else, the combination of naturalness and technical know-how is a rare thing.
The Right Now performs at Thunderbird Cafe in Lawrenceville at 9 PM on Friday, April 20.