Dharmasoul is guitarist/vocalist Jonah Tolchin and drummer Kevin Clifford. They met in 2008 at the National Guitar Workshop in Connecticut when they were fifteen. This is their first album together.
Tolchin was just out of high school when he released his debut an EP called “Eldawise”. In 2012 he followed up with a full length album “Criminal Man” and played the Newport Folk Festival. He was signed by Yep Roc Records and released two albums with them; 2014’s “Clover Lane” and 2016’s “Thousand Mile Night”. He has shared the stage with Ronnie Earl, Gregg Allman, Tony Joe White, Dave and Phil Alvin, Chris Smither and others. He has also done studio work with Mickey Raphael, Scarlett Rivera, Greg Leisz and Steve Berlin; to name a few.
Clifford studied Jazz at Loyola University in New Orleans. He was inspired by Loyola alumni Brian Blade and Stanton Moore, two jazz and funk drummers. He has performed in sessions with Mack Avenue recording artist trumpeter Sean Jones. As part of the Loyola Jazz band he has performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival when he was just nineteen.
They were re-united in 2014 when Tolchin invited Clifford to accompany him at the SXSW festival in support of his “Clover Lane” album. Playing together since then they have formed a musical brotherhood as they backed other artists as well as playing Tolchin’s solo work.
The duo, Dharmasoul, was cemented in the summer of 2017 when they recorded, at Verdant Studios in Vermont, with the addition of Brendon Moore, keyboards; Matt Murphy, bass; and Laurence Scudder, viola. The background vocals, by Cindy Walker and Marie Lewey, were later added at the Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Although “Lightning Kid” defies a specific genre their influences range from The Meters to Medeski, Martin, and Wood with John Scofield. Therefore there are elements of funk, jazz, blues, rock, R&B, and gospel.
Clifford’s heavy beats open “Chosen One” as Tolchin plays guitar and references the story of Christ “I don’t want to be the one who’s chosen” while Moore’s organ adds coloration. The hymn like “Bless Your Children” is softly sung “I don’t know how it feels to be pushed back on my heels” this time Moore is on piano while the background singers, Walker and Lewey, add some spice to the production.
“Lightning Kid” is a great groove. “Oh no look what you did, watch out m…..f….. he’s the lightning kid”. Beware radio it’s a great song but it may not be listener friendly. Tolchin, Clifford and Moore are aided by some great bass from Murphy.
“Open Your Heart” begins with Moore’s gospel like organ on this soulful tune “please stay longer girl, open up your heart again”. Tolchin’s pleading vocal is followed by a great guitar solo. This track should be the one chosen for airplay.
“Taste So Sweet” is a blues rock tune with more great guitar from Tolchin. “Love Again” highlights Moore’s keyboards; he’s featured again on “Armoured Hearts” along with Scudder playing the viola. “Vulgar” is the funky instrumental that closes out this fine album.
Whether they are a duo or a band this is an auspicious debut. Tolchin and Clifford are destined for a fabulous future.
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