Mingo Fishtrap – On Time (2014)

Austin, Texas doesn’t have a Trombone Shorty, the Subdudes or Dirty Dozen Brass Band like New Orleans does but they do have Mingo Fishtrap, and they’re just as funky and soulful those bands with a healthy dash of Motown tossed into their pot. This Tuesday (June 3, 2014), the eight-piece band will cut loose their fourth long player On Time (via Blue Corn Music), an album that stirs up those same old feeling we’d used to get when listening to an old Temptations or Spinners song on the radio.

Every one of these twelve tracks on On Time seems to be on a mission to replicate a classic RnB oldies station, but with a fresh gaze back. The folks responsible for these time-honored grooves don’t look the part — let’s just say they look more like Hall & Oates than the Isley Brothers — but you best believe they play the part to perfection.

Founder, guitarist and lead vocalist Roger Blevins, Jr. wasn’t exactly a neophyte when he formed Mingo Fishtrap as a student at the prestigious music program at the University of North Texas up in Denton; gospel and RnB has been a part of his entire life and his Dad is a musician, too (Blevins, Sr. is the band’s bass player). The base combo is completed with Chip Vayenas (drums, percussion, marimba), Mikel Urdy (percussion) and Dane Farnsworth (keyboards). But that’s not all: there’s a three-man horn section with Dan Bechdolt on saxes, Steve Butts manning trumpet and flugelhorn and Zol Waterhouse playing trombone.

It’s always been hard to sustain a non-jazz horn band, and it must be even harder these days because they’re fewer and farther between, so hearing one in this age is truly refreshing. It’s even cooler that this is a band that knows how to work the horns into the overall band arrangements; this isn’t a quintet with horns, it’s a full-blown octet.

It’s these arrangements that give each song its own character and staying well within their mission each time. Along with the live, homemade feel of the recordings, On Time is one of those rare albums where it’s hard for one or two songs to stand out because they all do. At the center of it all are Blevins’ vocals, who evokes all the great soul shouters but replicates none of them and like the old masters knows how to lift a good melody, not overtake it. The title cut “On Time,” even with it’s jazzy harmonies and feel-good groove wouldn’t work if his gospel-true voice didn’t become one with the song.

Every song has its own charms, though: “Movin” is a joyful Bourbon Street party, “Have I” rocks as much as it grooves and “End of the World,” will make you sway and sing along by the time the chorus breaks open. “Sugadoo” is almost too funky for James Brown and “Mason Jar” gets down with Vayenas’ marimba.

The urban soul number “This Ain’t What They Was” is one of the album’s catchiest tunes, but guest performer Dave Scher’s tasty slide guitar brings the song most of the way back to the Delta. “Too Far Gone” rocks just enough with that punchy three horn section to give it that classic Chicago vibe, and guest fx guitarist Carter Arrington adds the psychedelia on the bridge.

It doesn’t slow down until the last song; “Fireproof” is a steamin’ soul ballad delivered with conviction with the help of guest vocalist Treson Scipio.

Who needs neo-soul when old-school soul works just fine? And it rarely functions better than it does on Mingo Fishtrap’s On Time.

Visit Mingo Fishtrap’s website for more info.

Catch them at these dates and places:

Jun 01 Long’s Park Summer Music Series Lancaster, PA
Jun 04 Music City Roots Live From The Loveless Cafe Nashville, TN
Jun 05 Old Rock House St Louis, MO
Jun 06 Olathe Free Summer Concert Series Olathe, KS
Jun 07 The Shrine Tulsa, OK
Jun 13 The Roost Austin, TX
Jun 18 The Hamilton Washington, DC
Jun 19 World Cafe Live Philadelphia Philadelphia, PA
Jun 20 Rochester International Jazz Festival Rochester, NY
Jun 21 Rochester International Jazz Festival Rochester, NY
Jun 22 Chenango Summer Jam Norwich, NY
Jun 24 Knitting Factory Brooklyn, NY
Jun 25 Fairfield Theater Company StageOne Fairfield, CT
Jun 27 The Southern Charlottesville, VA
Jul 10 Silverton Casino Veil Pavilion Las Vegas, NV
Jul 11 TGIF Concerts in the Park Carlsbad, CA
Jul 12 Seven Sisters Fest w/ Damon Castill San Luis Obispo, CA
Jul 13 Concerts at Common Beach Tahoe City, CA
Jul 16 Yoshi’s San Francisco, CA
Jul 17 Sweetwater Music Hall Mill Valley, CA
Jul 18 Friday Night Live Cloverdale, CA
Sep 12 Phases of the Moon Festival, Kennekuk County Park w/ The Steepwater Band Danville, IL
Sep 13 Phases of the Moon Music + Art Festival w/ Soulive Danville, IL

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • steve0617

    Good review. Slight correction. It’s Roger Blevins Jr (and Sr.), not Robert.