Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators ‘Happiness In Every Style’ CD/LP/Dig (Timmon) 4/5

nicole-willis-and-the-soul-investigatorsSoulstress Nicole Willis joins up once again with crack Finnish backing band the Soul Investigators for a sumptuous exploration of the rootsier side of soul and what really comes across are the subtle shadings of colour and there is nothing forced or artificial about the music on offer here. If anything, in comparison to previous releases, the tempo is a tad more downbeat than per usual. However, a strong contender for most compelling number is the uptempo ‘Paint me in a corner’ that has a distinctive ne-Motown feel and the catchiest of chorus hooks, and something that Al Green no less could have sung first time round. Fusing funk and jazz, the instrumental ‘Vulture’s prayer’ has a retro 1970s groove and with the jazzy accompaniment of vibes and flute, is another winner. Infectious and only marginally a fast-paced song, ‘Together we climb’ features a slight echo and prominent rhythm guitar with punchy brass. In fact the five piece reed section and equivalent five member rhythm section are to be commended for such an authentic sound. They are more Detroit, or Chicago than downtown Helsinki. For a trip down musical memory lane, the gently uplifting ‘One in a million’ hits the S-spot and is notable for some lovely collective horn work and juicy Hammond organ.
Nicole Willis has the slight look of a young 1970s Millie Jackson and if the music does not immediately grab you by the throat, then…
A fine follow-up to the excellent 2013 offering, ‘Tortured Soul‘.

Tim Stenhouse