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88Nine Radio Milwaukee

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Move over Charles Bradley, there's a new old soul slinger; Sonny Knight and the Lakers

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Perhaps the best part of the retro soul movement lies less in the new bands reviving vintage soul but rather in the revelation that some of these old-school soul singers are far from gone. A few, like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, have shown they have more than enough in the tank to put out some fresh songs and ligitimize a whole new generation of retro-soul bands and artists. Minneapolis' Secret Stash Records, is the latest to "discover" a buried gem in Sonny Knight...

And on April 29th, 2014, some nearly 50 years after recording his first single, they debuted the first album from Sonny Knight & The Lakers, I’m Still Here. For Sonny Knight, the story started in '65 when he recorded his first 45 (as Little Sonny Knight & The Cymbols) in 1965 at the tender age of 17. Shortly thereafter, music took a back seat to a three-year stint in the army. A few more years in the Bay Area followed, before he returned to Minnesota in the mid-1970s and joined the now-cult favorite funk group Haze. By the early ‘80s, Haze had broken up and Sonny walked away from music for a full time job as a truck driver.

In the meantime, that lone 7” record he cut as a teenager (“Tears On My Pillow” B/W “Rain Dance”) become a digger's delight, the rare single that is even more precious for its scarcity, and an ace up the sleeve for DJ's whose style is defined by obscure funk relics such as these.

In the 1990s, vocalists Monroe Wright and Maurice Young (formerly of Minneapolis soul legends the Valdons) extended him an invitation to join their new group, The Bachelors. When the Valdons were revived in 2012 in celebration of Secret Stash Records’ Twin Cities Funk & Soul compilation, Wright and Young tapped Knight as a new member. After six months of working together on shows promoting Twin Cities Funk & Soul, Sonny and Secret Stash founder / in-house funky drummer Eric Foss went on to form Sonny Knight and The Lakers. 

The Lakers is a fitting name for a band capturing essential sounds that were thought to be forgotten as the NBA's Lakers had their start in the Land of Lakes; Sonny's re-birth as soul singer is a fulfillment of forgotten dreams and an impecccable album filled with soulful gems on par with anything Charles Bradley or Sharon Jones have ever done. It's out now, and if you're a fan of vintage soul, I wouldn't pass on this one.

Grade: A-