King James & The Special Men
Act Like You Know
Reviewed by: Geno Thackara
If you’ve never been to New Orleans, or just haven’t gone there in a while, look no further for the next best thing. Okay, you’re still missing the food, the atmosphere of rowdy street parades and the feel of stumbling cobbled streets at two A.M. almost hopelessly lost, but Act Like You Know provides the flavorful sound of the Crescent City vividly enough that you can still almost smell the beignets.
These songs are a jambalaya-like mix of Creole, classic soul and streetwise blues that sound like they’ve been street-busking staples for decades. That’s not really the case – it’s original material by the band, give or take an expanded boogie variation on Charles Mingus’s “Eat That Chicken” – but this crew has those time-tested modes nailed down and vibrantly brought to life. The funky horns and piano sizzle with pure Delta swing, while Jimmy Horn’s gravel-voiced holler is as raw as a rare steak.
You don’t have to read the Special Men’s bio to know that they’ve been playing around town together for years; you can already hear it as soon as they start stomping and shaking. If that doesn’t convince you, the freewheeling jazz jam of “9th Ward Blues” will. They start grooving with an almost psychedelic vibe, come down to earth to trade raunchy solos all around, and then continue carrying on as if they’re ready to wail all night long. After all, they often do. Maybe the rest of us up north unfortunately don’t get the chance to see it in person, but Act Like You Know is a pretty nice high-energy substitute.