It’s been three years since Jelly Bread released its jammy debut, “Funk Ain’t Got No Dress Code.” Since then, the players’ unabating work ethic has seen the band become staples on the West Coast festival circuit, with the chameleonic ability to fit into any number of musical settings.
With the release of its second full-length album, “Here, There, & Everywhere,” the quintet once again shows off its shape-shifting musical stylings. This time around, Jelly Bread ties it together with tighter arrangements, stronger lyrical content and flat-out better musicianship across the board.
Album standouts “Hole In My Pocket” and “In You” present the release as more song-based than groove-based while remaining steeped in the soul/country/funk amalgam the musicians have mastered.
“That just happened on accident,” singer and chief songwriter Dave Berry said of the songwriting progression. “That kinda thing happens when you’re on the road so much.”
While these tunes certainly aren’t bonafide pop-hits they do contain strong traces of commercial sensibility that help put forth a stronger, more focused effort.
While many tracks deal with Jelly Bread’s specialty of getting a crowd dancing, the album also marks a growth in lyrical depth. Berry was clear that their grueling touring schedule contributed to the earnest nature of many of the lyrics: “(Touring so much) opens you up to a lot of emotions and we wrote a lot of these songs for ourselves just to cut through the bullshit.”
The narrative in “Train Song,” while not completely autobiographical, addresses the concern of a daughter growing up without her father there to “chase all them dirty boys away,” a thought that surely crosses Berry’s mind while on the road for weeks at a time.
Along with the notable improvements as songwriters, the new lineup of Jelly Bread also provides a more tasteful, nuanced, and skilled musicality. Guitarist Sean Lehe, while only on five tracks, provides the ear candy that the band doesn’t need but certainly enjoys. On the quintessential Jelly Bread tune “Don’t Let Nobody,” he does an excellent job of displaying his chops without distracting from the song itself.
Bassist Jeremy Hunt and keyboardist Eric Matlock also do an exceptional job of surveying the musical terrain and deciding when to take the spotlight, thus avoiding a very common pitfall of bands so chock full of talent. Matlock’s playing on “Train Song” specifically is one of the textural highlights of the entire album with a tone and style that sounds like a modernized Garth Hudson.
Drummer and singer Cliff Porter is brilliant throughout the album. As the only other original member aside from Berry, he also has developed since the last full-length album. His voice effortlessly evokes the nostalgia of ’90s R&B on “In You” and even with the antiquated hip-hop cadence in “Funk To The Left,” Porter avoids cheesiness and instead sells the song as an authentic throwback.
Jelly Bread has developed an impressive fan base and recognizable brand due to its fun, engaging live shows.
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