Soulful reggae in new album ‘Just A Little Talk’ by Soul Sugar

Mar 12th, 2024

Category: news

Soulful reggae in new album ‘Just A Little Talk’ by Soul Sugar

French keyboardist Guillaume Metenier’s collaborative project Soul Sugar releases 5th album Just A Little Talk, with 8 tracks of classic dub and soulful roots-reggae-inspired musical fusions where new songs and instrumentals sit side by side with a small selection of on-point cover versions of Curtis Mayfield and Donald Byrd.

By any measure, Soul Sugar oozes authenticity. It began in the late 2000s as an outlet for the virtuoso organist and producer’s updated takes on 60s and 70s soul-jazz and Hammond funk, but over the years it has evolved into something entirely different: a vehicle for classic dub and reggae-inspired fusions made in collaboration with friends and like-minded musicians. As a result, Soul Sugar albums mix impressive musicianship with great grooves and untold nods to the sounds and artists that have helped shape Metenier’s musical outlook.

This time round, Metenier’s close circle of musical collaborators includes Blundetto, Samuel Isoard, Yvo Abadi, Jolly Joseph, Jahno, Shniece, Slikk Tim and Leo Carmichael. While many are old friends who have appeared on previous albums and singles, there are some first-time collaborators too.

This familiar-but-also-fresh approach is mirrored by the blend of tracks on offer on Just a Little Talk, which contains newly-penned songs as well as cover versions – something Metenier has been doing since the inclusion of Jimmy Smith and Dr Lonnie Smith covers on 2009 debut album Nothing But The Truth. Memorable covers since have included “Why Can’t We Live Together”, “I Want You” and “Never Too Much”, all featuring the honeyed voice of Leo Carmichael.

This time round, the headline-grabbing covers are undeniably special. You’ll find takes on Curtis Mayfield’s “Makings Of You”, re-framed as a languid roots-reggae song voiced by the returning Carmichael, and Donald Byrd’s “Blackbyrd”, which Metenier has brilliantly re-imagined as a fabulous fusion of Studio One dub and Blaxploitation funk.

Yet it’s the album’s original compositions that arguably stand out. For proof, check lovers rock-influenced reggae-soul treat “The End of Your World” (featuring heart-aching roots style lyrics and Junior Murvin-esque lead vocals by Jolly Joseph), the similarly conscious “Just a Little Talk” once again with Jolly Joseph, and recent single “Top of My List”– an effortlessly emotive gem marked out by Metenier’s weighty dub bassline and Shniece’s incredible lead vocal.

The original instrumentals, in which Metenier often trades licks and solos with guitarists Slick Tim and Samuel Isoard, are similarly impressive – and, to return to our theme, as authentic as they come. Fittingly, one of these – “Tubby’s Ghost” – was originally written and recorded in 1998 with bassist Patrick Bylebyl, who was then Metenier’s partner in a project called Seven Dub. It is, then, a new cover of one of Metenier’s own tunes – and a pleasingly heavyweight one at that. It delivers a genuinely pleasing conclusion to Soul Sugar’s most true and authentic album to date.

 ‘Just A Little Talk’ out via LPCD / Digital on March 15th via Gee Recordings