‘Sugar Hip Ya Ya’, the latest release from British-Jamaican singer-songwriter, producer, and radio personality, Dionne Bennett mixes the sounds of Stax and Muscle Shoals with passion and positivity. The seeds for the record were sewn when Bennett guested with Hungarian blues musician, Little G Weevil on one of his solo projects.
The natural chemistry between the two led to a musical collaboration that resulted in the eight originals of the ten songs on the album with Weevil adding lead guitar and vocals on various tracks in addition to undertaking production duties on the album.
One of two covers on the album – the strong opener, a cover of the 1968 Etta James hit ‘Tell Mama’ – sets the scene with sassy sounds inspired by Muscle Shoals and Stax. The second cover, Allen Toussaint’s ‘Yes We Can Can’, is a song re-kindled for the times. If David Bowie ever worked with Bob Marley then ‘Let It Rain’ could be a close approximation of the sound produced. Including a sample of Martin Luther King Jr’s famous speech, combined with blistering horns, Weevil’s guitar, and Bennet’s soaring vocal, it calls for tolerance in today’s mixed-up world where right-wing fanatics spread racism and division with ease.
The title track, ‘Sugar Hip Ya Ya’, with its swinging groove and heavy brass is a rallying cry for independent women everywhere. The funky rocker, ‘Spy Me’ contains a surprising treat for lovers of 1980s synth music. ‘Full-Time Job’ is a Hammond-driven nod to Bennett’s chosen career path.
The recording process on the record is top-notch. With Bennet’s soaring vocal, driving beats, horns, and Hammond B3 to the fore, the music is uplifting and full of positivity. The mix is perfect with all parts clear and loud. A testament to all involved, it screams to be heard in a live setting, where Bennett and the band will own the room.
Rounding out the record, ‘Get Style’, allows each member of the band to shine. At an epic nine minutes long, it is quite simply a showstopper of a track. The multiple harmonies of the simple chorus are infectious and memorable. Band members trade solos with each other in a song that lends itself to audience participation, in fact, if performed at the end of a show then this is the song that everyone will go home signing.
‘Sugar Hip Ya Ya’ brings together the best of soul, blues, and funk with an exciting collection of new and original music played with style and undiminished positivity. This stunning release proves Dionne Bennett is an artist who deserves to play long, loudly, and often.