Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Paving Funk: Memphis Music from the Moon

Luna - Paving Funk

Classic, power-trio rock music from Memphis, TN, Paving Funk brings all the soul of its name, but still manages to stay firmly rooted in classic rock territory. Long-time cohorts, Corbin Miles, Josh Fuller, and Frank Rhodes recently revealed their newest project with a concise four-track EP entitled Luna, now available on iTunes.

The trio sounds the tightest when the players are all focused on building a solid groove. The drums lay back, the bass cuts deep, and the guitar builds a soft, textural atmosphere that draws in the listener. It's clear that soloing and improvisation are important parts of the Paving Funk compositional method. Much of the album is fronted by the scathing guitar solos of Miles, but Rhodes on bass and Fuller on drums also have their moments in the spotlight.

The title of the first track on Luna, "Spacegrass," is a fitting description of the sound Paving Funk have created on this release. While at times leaning toward the upbeat and intense sound of jam-grass, Paving Funk also allows their compositions to drift into a more aloof and mysterious realm. With the intro track, the "space" element comes first with a slow, psychedelic guitar groove. Nearly half the song passes before the track begins to pick up steam. The second half is much more energetic with solos on guitar and bass. The dark overtone and sparse arrangement of the final jam is reminiscent of Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold." The fade at the end leaves you wanting more as this song seems to end before things really get good. A wailing metal-worthy solo by Miles fades out leaving us wondering, "What came next?" Perhaps the guys of Paving Funk should have taken a cue from The Nuge and just let this one ride out to a good eight or nine minutes. Either way, "Spacegrass" is a solid opening track that really sets the tone for the entire EP.

"Yellow Shoes" picks up the pace quite a bit and is one of the catchier songs on the album. The trio make the best out of their small arrangement with power-packed guitar riffs that come out strong when played on both guitar and bass together. Paving Funk capitalizes on the ability to build a tight groove over and over again throughout every song on Luna.

The title track, "Luna" is an encapsulation of what Paving Funk does best when they create these smooth, funky grooves. Rhodes and Fuller lock in the solid earthy rhythm of funk within a rock outfit and allow Miles' shimmering guitar chords to build the soulful atmosphere that sets this track apart.

Luna closes on the funkiest track of the whole EP, "Bubble." The composition bounces between a pounding riff-based hook to broken down verse sections where Miles' guitar work once again takes the driver's seat. Just before the half-way mark, Rhodes breaks out the slap bass work and the guitar goes into choppy wah-wah rhythm mode. Paving Funk really honors its name in this brief vamp. Fuller has his chance to solo on the drums through the hook that closes the song.

The debut effort by Memphis artists, Paving Funk, is a great showing for the often underrated power-trio format. With technology always in the forefront of the music industry, its refreshing to see a band taking it back to the roots of solid instrumentation. Not only do the guys of Paving Funk bring a consistent set of songs to the table with Luna, but they also present a clear vision of what their music is at its core. Overall, Luna is a blend of rock, funk, and jam tunes that put Paving Funk on a solid foundation with lots of room to expand.

Check it out for yourself on iTunes.

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