Ones to watch: Black Pumas

Sam Cooke meets Wu-Tang Clan in the Texas-based duo’s surprisingly fresh take on 70s soul

Black Pumas are the answer to the exciting question of what it would sound like if Sam Cooke or Neil Young joined the Wu-Tang Clan. The Texas-based duo of Adrian Quesada (sword-sharp production, guitar) and Eric Burton (shivering vocal, guitar) are experienced musicians rather than ingenus, but the songs they’ve assembled on their self-titled debut revivify the sound and feel of 70s soul in a surprisingly fresh way. Quesada began recording its instrumentals after being inspired by soul-loving Wu veteran Ghostface Killah, and the nascent Pumas music – live recordings leveraged by the strict rigour of loops and samples – just needed the right singer, someone not too in thrall to the past to create a fruitful future.

Friends recommended Burton, a busker they’d seen around Austin, who’d meandered inland from his west coast apprenticeship of church, street performance and musical theatre. The duo have now expanded to a sextet for an electrifying live show. Some have described it as psychedelic soul, but the Pumas are more direct, disciplined and easily digestible. Fire, built on a Baby Huey brass loop, Black Moon Rising and the lead single Colors are highlights, but brooding, string-serenaded ballad Oct 33 shows the band at its best. Like Portishead 25 years ago, it’s a debut so perfectly realised by the standards they’ve set themselves that you wonder what could possibly come next.

Black Pumas’ debut album is released on ATO Records on 21 June

Watch the video for Colors by Black Puma.


Damien Morris

The GuardianTramp

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