REVIEW: King Cole Featuring J. Buck — The Mean Season (SINGLE)

The last few years have truly been a great time in the history of alternative funk and neo-soul, with several artists debuting incredible records that speak to the old school elements of both genres as frequently as they do a modern edge that wasn’t present some forty-five years ago. King Cole is throwing his hat into the ring in the form of a new single featuring singer J. Buck, “The Mean Season,” and whether you’re a fan of funky music or not, it makes for quite a difficult track to turn down if you love danceable beats.

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This song has a really straightforward structure, with the greatest amount of color in the music coming directly from the enthusiasm both King Cole and J. Buck have in their performances here. J. Buck is particularly soothing in his singing, delivering the verses slowly but surely and leaving just enough room on either side of the hook to let his counterpart’s precision handiwork fill in the gaps where words simply wouldn’t have done the mood justice. These are trained professionals, and that much is obvious even in the most casual of listening sessions spent with this composition.

The vocal harmony elevates the lyrics brilliantly and definitely adds something to the groove in this single, and I particularly like that it didn’t require any bombastic synthetics to accomplish this feat. I’ve become increasingly biased against some of the more sophisticated studio software being utilized in the mainstream over the past three years, and the biggest reason why is quality organic music like that which we find in “The Mean Season.” It’s hard to go back to the plastic stuff once you’ve had the real thing, and I’m reminded of as much when I spend some time alone with this song.

I will say that the master mix is just a little tighter than it actually needed to be for what King Cole is trying to pull off in “The Mean Season,” but somehow the grandiosity of the instrumentation is still palatable and, more importantly, accessible to the listeners even at relatively moderate volumes. I think the main intention here was to avoid overpowering the audience with so much funk that it would feel like a whirlpool effect from within the speakers, and it’s primarily this reason why I let the entire feature slide as a calculated oversight meant to please the masses.

King Cole and J. Buck are bringing the thunder to a hungry American underground this winter with “The Mean Season,” and while I don’t normally support collaborations at such an early stage in someone’s career, this could really help to put the former on the map in a way the latter has in the last five years. This hasn’t been the greatest year for those of us who like to check out concerts and the new artists who open for some of our longtime favorites, but in this single, these two musicians are doing all they can to make the impending shift from one year into the next just a little easier.

Colin Jordan