You might have heard The Menahan Street Band in some unexpected places and wondered, “Who is this?” Sampled by many hip-hop artists including Jay-Z and Kid Cudi and named for Bushwick’s very own Menahan Street, their appeal stretches far and wide. The title track of their second album, The Crossing, evokes an almost Latin feel, with a loose, dreamy sensibility. It sets an appropriate pace for the rest of the album, which also gives us slower fare like “Driftwood,” highlighting a jangling slide guitar, which almost sounds swiped from a 60’s surf film. Another genre-bender is “Sleight Of Hand,” featuring tight, slick percussion over the Menahan Street Band’s notorious horn players, David Guy and Leon Michels (both of whom came from funk/soul revivalists Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings). From there, we are shown to the shuffle of “Everyday a Dream,” a throwback to 70’s soul with a simple and memorable groove.
Upon first listening to this album, I am struck by how live it sounds, as if the band is just sitting there in front of you playing. Yet I am also impressed by how streamlined and balanced the mix is, for it follows one of the rules of good band chemistry that many seem to forget so easily: everyone gets their turn to play, and everyone plays a supportive role. Each song has a natural ebb and flow, which is supported by each musician, because they’ve all left space for each other. Produced by Menahan Street Band’s own Thomas Brenneck, whose mission statement was “vibe, mood, and emotion,” this album is a trip and a treat.