Two More on the One
While not directly associated with the newest set of funk bands in town, two other local acts are adding something undeniable to the scene.
Every Tuesday at the Continental Club, Mike Barfield gets as down and dirty as a white guy from Houston can. Billed as the Tyrant of Texas Funk and leading a stellar lineup that includes Mike Flanigin on keys and the guitar scorch of Johnny Moeller, Barfield mixes Otis Redding, James Carr, and James Brown funk 'n' soul with a sprinkle of Texas today. The singer switched gears out of the Hollisters when that band's guitarist, Eric Danheim, left for the Pacific Northwest in 2002.
"I tried to keep it going, but it just wasn't the same for me," the deep-voiced vocalist explains. "I'd always had an interest in R&B, and I started leaning more that way. But it wasn't a conscious decision; it just started happening.
"I'm almost the anti-frontman in a way," he continues. "You let it go where it wants to go. As a leader you just have to give the players freedom. Plus, it's a whole different thing writing those kinds of songs. The vocals are almost like horn bursts. You can tell a story with very few words."
Continuing the new scene's trend, his only album was released in 2004, but Barfield claims a new one will commence soon. "For now, I'm just trying to enjoy my life and enjoy living," he states, and as anyone who's witnessed his energetic performances can attest, that's exactly what he's doing.
While Grupo Fantasma has long been revered as one of Austin's best bands, their antecedent, Brownout, is no slouch when it comes to flattening audiences with Latin grooves. With a lineup that excludes vocalist/timbales player Jose Galeano and adds a couple of horns, Brownout is just getting back its roots, according to guitarist Adrian Quesada.
"Brownout came before Grupo," he explains. "We used to play Latin funk. It started with a band called the Blimp that moved here from Laredo. They joined with my band that had horns. It eventually became Grupo Fantasma, but one day it dawned on us that we don't play funk anymore. So we started an offshoot just for fun."
Mostly instrumental, Brownout takes its cues from James Brown's J.B.'s and San Francisco's Malo, the Seventies act fronted by Carlos Santana's brother Jorge. Quesada also mentions bands that recorded for the famed Fania label and Tejano acts from that decade as well. "Bands like Little Joe would always include one funk song on their albums," he notes.
Some of the Brownout groove has crept into the Grupo sound, and the Prince connection has led to some surprises. "I actually got to hang with Maceo Parker a while back, at the Prince rehearsals in Los Angeles. He asked our trombone player to join his band, and he gave us his blessing."