Music Review: Amp Fiddler-AfroStrut


Joseph “Amp” Fiddler’s Afro Strut is primarily a face off of r&b and house with a cheering section of different styles that have divided dance floors since the late ’80s. Fiddler’s buoyant emotions are closer in kin to the carefree feelings of dance music but his raspy tenor and pliant falsetto shares the tonal memories of Terrence Trent D’arby and D’Influence singer Sarah Ann Webb. His passages through the worlds of Larry Heard, Sly Stone and Prince are footnotes to his sound that is classically comfortable but modern.

He uses sampledelic culture to take the grit of old soul and makes it the backbone to his style that has expanded into a flirtation with Caribbean, “Find My Way” is the voice of an older Black man who yearns for his woman’s romantic sanctuary after a racist encounter sends him to jail. Fiddler produces the track with atomospheric keyboard effects and a nuanced but standard house beat. Where Waltz of a Ghetto Fly was 100 percent solo vocals Afro has guest appearances from British pop singer and Grammy winner Corrine Bailey Rae and underground soul artist Stephanie Mckay. “If I Don’t” favors ’20s jazz clarinet and jump blues streamlined into a beat that would make Jersey house producer Kerri Chandler proud. Fiddler’s bricolage of R&B, house, funk and jazz compresses his Detroit-bred sonic experiences into a keen almost deep house download. The boundaries of the genres are invisible as the ongoing rhythms forge a unity in funk. Former employer George Clinton does his trademark intoxicated rapping providing a lower register to Fiddler’s artificially high notes when “Hustle” breaks into an ode to a love jones. “Heaven” is the singular attempt at mutual balladry. Mckay’s vocals with Fiddler are benign phrases low on emotion but striking in their unadorned softness. Emotional candidness endures and expresses itself with the lone reggae heat of “I Need You” and the mini Bernie Worrellisms that seep from “Empower.” Not content to mimic the centralized choices of terrestrial radio Fiddler’s Afro Strut delivers a jolt to R&B’s homogenized rulebook.