The New Orleans funk band gets heavy, heavier and heaviest on its new album, "Dirty Word."
[Updated] The title track on Dumpstaphunk's new Dirty Word tells you all you need to know about the band. It's little more than a riff, but that riff's a monster, one that the band plays as an instrumental for more than half the song's running time. It doesn't wear out because the music around it is in constant motion - a bass pick-up here, a few bars of a guitar lick there, a keyboard counterpoint farther along. The riff is stable, but nothing else around it is until guest Ani DiFranco steps in with a stylized vocal that in context evokes the early '70s heyday of funk.
Dumpstaphunk are true believers in classic funk, not just New Orleans funk. Dirty Word opens with "Dancing to the Truth," an homage to Sly and the Family Stone that continues later in the album with a cover of Larry Graham's "Water." The cover of the funk-rock "If I'm in Luck" features drummer Nikki Glaspie stepping confidently into Betty Davis' aggressive, extreme vocals while The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea adds a third bass part to the song without creating murk or jamming up the heavy groove.
None of that means the band has turned its back on its hometown music. The '70s rock edges give way to second line funk on "Raise the House," which includes Trombone Shorty and the Rebirth Brass Band along with Art Neville. Here and throughout, the guests fit seamlessly into Dumpstaphunk, adding funkiness first. The song's party ending has so much going on that you feel the rhythmic impact of Shorty's solo more than you register its melodic flow.
That focus on funk first, everything else second means Dumpstaphunk's a pretty pure strain and not for everybody. But as Dirty Word shows, heaviness and hardness can be pretty rewarding.
Tonight, Dumpstaphunk plays a special early CD-release party at the Maple Leaf. The evening will start 8-ish with a meet and greet with the band with food courtesy of Mellow Mushroom and Squeal, then a performance around 9:30.
Recently, Ian Neville and I talked about Dirty Word, the funk marketplace, and growing up Neville for the My Spilt Milk podcast.
Updated 3:29 p.m.
The Betty Davis cover on the album is "If I'm in Luck," not "I Know You Know" as originally reported. The text has been changed to correct this error.