Digging JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound

July 11th, 2011

Keeping things quiet and releasing popular singles off-the-cuff has been the motto of this inspired free-wheelin’ hard soul rock band. It manages to be original yet reviving a sound over fifty-years old. Now signed to Bloodshot Records, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound has been called “one of the hottest US soul acts right now” by MOJO Magazine. The Chicago and Uptown born lead singer JC Brooks tells an interviewer on his MySpace website that he just wants to “make music people have to dance to” and “have to make love to.”

So far he’s been nothing but successful; the MOJO endorsement, a YouTube repost of the single “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco garnering over 100,000 hits, and a special performance at Rahm Emanuel’s Inaugural Concert in Millenium Park. Brooks also took Lincoln Square Auditorium by storm, a venue with notoriously poor acoustics, for a private relaunch party for the Chicago Reader where his raucous stage presence got even the most firmly planted feet moving.

Brooks’ band has been picked up by the New York Times, The Chicago TribuneThe Sun Times, and Time Out. They’ve toured the US, Canada, and Spain supporting other soul performers including Mayer Hawthorne (Chicago), Lee Fields, Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens. Brooks follows in a long line of Chicago soul singers such as Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, Donny Hathaway, and Syl Johnson.

Following 2009 Eccentric Soul Revue tour, Brooks debuted Beat of Our Own Drum (Vampisoul/Rabbit Factory) with the single “Get It Together” and a cover of Wilco’s “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.” The group has collaborated with Syl Johnson, Tortoise’s Dan Bitney, lost soul legend Renaldo Domino, and the Impressions’ Nate Evans, and cut live sessions for influential indie stations WFMU and KDHX.

Even with a film in the works, a new record label, and busy concert and recording schedule,  Brooks says “don’t worry, the whole thing is happening right here in town; we’re still just good Chicago boys.” The other members of the band are Billy Bungeroth on guitar, Ben Taylor on fender bass, Kevin Marks behind the drums, Chris Neal & Andrew Zelm on horns.

The band’s most recent LP is available from Addendum Records and an MP3 download of Brooks’ 2009 release Beat of Our Own Drum is on CDbaby.com.  The two volume self-released live CDs are available for mail order according to the band’s blog by e-mailing him at theuptownsound@yahoo.com. To get a sense of Brook’s distribution philosophy, his July 7th, 2011 blog post reads “screw downloads, it’s all about shiny plastic stuff you can hold in your hands.” In the best sense of the phrase, this guy is old school.

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