Old Hipster Recommends: Chicano Soul

The Happy CoupleHey, if you checked out Monday’s Timeline Cleanse, you might have seen this one coming.

I blame YouTube.

But I’d like to preface this meta-recommendation with the note of, “GodDAMN I’m happy that there are still bands out there making early vintage-sounding soul music.”

I know y’all love it too. Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Meyer Hawthorne, Amy Winehouse, Durand Jones & the Indications, Los Lobos… just packed to the rafters with talent.

Now, if Los Lobos tripped you up in reference to soul music, I wouldn’t be too surprised. And no, I tend not to think of them as soul music in a traditional sense. But they have always displayed amazing blues roots. For example, “Don’t Worry Baby” off How Will the Wolf Survive, one of their very first albums.

It might surprise you to hear this, but late 60’s-early 70’s soul is alive and well in East Los Angeles in the Latinx community. It sure as hell surprised me.

I mean, I was aware of Chicano Batman which certainly has some of those elements, fused with the Tropicalia sound from the late sixties of Brazil, (which is a great rabbit hole of it’s own. This video will provide a primer for the curious.) But I wasn’t aware of how seriously retro (and sadly invisible outside of that small community) Chicano Soul was in the area.

Although it’s not a new thing. Case in point, Thee Midnighters who were by many accounts the biggest Latinx rock band of the 60’s. And yet, I wouldn’t be too surprised if most people haven’t ever heard of them. Which is a shame, because they were fantastic.

Which brings us up to current bands. Take for example Thee Sinseers. If by some miracle you stumbled upon “What’s His Name” playing on a radio, you would swear it was from decades ago. Smooth, brimming with smooth soul harmonies and frosted with horns. Fans of anything the Dap Kings have touched would find a lot to love here.

I can’t forget With Strangers, which was the band that started me down this thread. Sweet Jesus these guys are incredible. That voice! THOSE HORNS! I want to inject this sound into my veins!

Or Thee Lakesiders, who are like a fever dream of a Los Angeles that was. “Parachute,” released on Big Crown Records in 2018 even has a slick black & white video for it that is hypnotically charming.

Also Joey Quinones who released “Don’t Tell Me” in Spring 2019, which is a slow cruise classic. Holy doodle, this track is dreamy. Even more impressive, he’s a one-man show, playing all the instruments as well as singing. Talent like this needs to be seen and appreciated. And while Joey has over 10,000 subscribers and this video clocks over 850,000 views, he’s effectively impossible to find outside of YouTube (his website links to a label that links his video with no other info and his Instagram is non existent. That said, he does have a Facebook page linked in the video, but it is likewise unhelpful for anyone wanting to buy his music.)

Sadly many of these artists are not easy to find outside of YouTube. At best, you might be able to track down an EP on Spotify or a single or two on Bandcamp. Most of their presence is on the notorious video sharing site. Maybe it’s a sign of the times. I like to think they get a healthy amount of recognition in live venues around the area, but stuck up in the Pacific Northwest as I am, I can’t prove it.

I’ve never encountered this much raw goddamned talent this far under the mainstream radar, which in its own way is kind of impressive. Seek them out if it’s your jam. Maybe dig your own rabbit hole while watching their videos. You might find something new and unexpected to love.

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