Good Grooves

Fever Dream heats up; Zawadi’s heady soul stew
By BOB GULLA  |  June 27, 2006

For many reasons, much great music is created in the darker recesses of the mind, where dreariness, despondence, and desolation rule. Of course, it doesn’t always have to be the case. Music needn’t always reside in the shadows — just ask Brian Wilson, who dipped into both sides of his psyche for material. Anyway, Fever Dream, the formerly UMass students now based in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, prefer to sing primarily about the good stuff — the sunny side of the street, the optimism, Ian Dury’s “reasons to be cheerful.” And on their new album, Gripes, Grooves, and Grandeur, they let a little light shine down on the dark process of making music. “Bands today have largely ignored the brighter, more joyous side of the human experience,” the band writes. “We try to represent feelings of happiness and fun.”

The band sure comes through on that MO. Songs such as the affable opening tune “High Kid with a Dream” and “My Dog” are the kind of rockin’ boogies that lift you off your feet with good vibes, the kind of tunes you’d expect from a bunch of besotted, BoSox-capped buddies. In the past I referred to the band as a cross between the rootsy groove rock of Blues Traveler (largely because of the presence of a harmonica) and the jammin’ grooves of the Chili Peppers. Well, there’s less rhythmic funkiness this time out. The band has opted for a more rootsy rocking jangle, a la Steve Miller, with melodic chords, a bluesy feel, and a muscular rhythm section. The band is solid in a loose kinda way, proficient but not over the top, and its performances complement the songwriting, which is shaggy with just the right intentions. Fever Dream is not about specific songs — it’s about a feel, a good time, and entertainment. Yeah, sometimes the songs don’t hit all the right notes, and sometimes their work is more a good idea, more jam motifs, than an actual realization (“Secrets,” “Hurry Man”). But four years after coming together, the band has turned a good time into an art form, and they should be commended for it.
FEVER DREAM + JAZZ BASTARDS | Century Lounge, 150 Chestnut St, Providence | June 30 | 401.751.2255

Zawadi = Wow!
You wonder where it comes from . . . A band delivers music that is so fully formed, so utterly realized that you need to know how it came to be, and from where. Not that Zawadi hasn’t put its time in. The band has obviously been woodshedding, because this stuff smokes, pure and simple. What is it? Well, it’s a part-jazz, part-hip-hop, part-poetry, part-vintage R&B, part-’70s soul, and part-psychedelic sensation. Hope that answers your question. The core of Zawadi, which means “gift” in Kiswahili, is in the hip-hop poetry of Desiree Nash and Ammala Douangsavanh. Nash is a forceful singer with gospel and soul roots, while Ammala brings more of a spoken-word approach. Backing them is a full band, including Jeff Richardson on upright bass, Jim Richardson on drums and guitar, and Aarin Clemons on voice and beatbox. Together, it’s a sort of Family Stone kind of outpouring, a celebration of sound and style that is an exhilarating amalgam of passion and inspiration. The opening “Dive Deep” has a ’60s R&B beat, with layers of clashing styles folding beautifully into each other. “Innocent” features Ammala rapping a la Gil Scott-Heron over a slab of ’70s soul power. “Forever, Forever” kicks off with some super-sweet Wes Montgomery-type jazz chords, then moves into some neo-soul so gorgeous you’d think you lost your balance in a roomful of goose down. There are three live tracks and a remix at the end, which give you some indication of what kind of live presentation we’re talking about. This is heady, innovative stuff that Providence should be proud to call its own.

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