Steep Grade – Funk Machine (Independent)
New York six-piece Steep Grade has been performing in and around their home city since 2004, playing an infectious, upbeat hybrid of rock and funk, with original songs and classic covers. Instrumentally, they include trombone and saxophone alongside guitars, bass and drums, and their feelgood approach provides an unbeatable, vibrant soundtrack for sunny days in the park, driving with the windows down and, of course, the dance floor.
Their debut album “Sucker Punch” arrived back in 2006, and can still be found for sale on various sites, but for many, “Funk Machine” will be their introduction to the group - and it’s a handsome way to get acquainted. Their influences appear to run the gamut, from Herbie Hancock’s ‘70s funk excursions (“Head Hunters”, “Thrust”, etc.), Stevie Wonder and Funkadelic, to jam rock bands such as Phish and The Samples.
In frontman Damien Teed they’ve a singer with a soulful voice, with no interest in vocal acrobatics, but with ample expressive range. The rhythm section of drummer Dylan Teed and bass man Patrick McCarthy drive the music on, leaving plenty of room for lead guitarist Rob Maresca and the horns of Brian Borrelli and Marty Peters to apply the punchy dynamics that considerably elevate this 13-track collection.
They begin with “Sophie”, its playful arrangement and positive vibe does much to set the tone of the album, and the following number “Girl Is Suicide” confirms our first impressions, and then adds a Santana-esque sax groove for extra pleasure. On “Evil Eye” it’s the song that grabs you by the lapels, and applies a little shadow and doubt; and when it comes to the fore mentioned ‘classic covers’ their big band, brass-driven take on Pink Floyd’s “Have A Cigar” is superb.