“Have you ever seen a girl so fine, blows my mind with her sexy ways, drives me crazy, touching me,” sings David Huddleston on “Girl So Fine,” the opening track to Biscuits & Gravy’s sophomore album, Young Love. Offering smooth lyrics with a fast and tight delivery, Biscuits & Gravy’s lead singer knows how to turn heads his way. “She keeps dancing to my favorite song, she knows how to get along, keep it going all night long.” BAH, BUH, DUH! Enter the horn section to mightily sweep listeners off their feet, blasting a melody that rides the line between funk, soul, and pop.
Boston septet Biscuits & Gravy are a force to behold. Formed in 2009 on the busker-friendly streets surrounding Berklee College of Music, the band combine young and old sounds with youthful and mature themes to create a musical cocktail for all to enjoy. Choose your flavor: Biscuits & Gravy will deliver. It is for these reasons and more that Atwood Magazine is excited and honored to be premiering the band’s independently released sophomore album, Young Love (out 9/23/2016).
Listen: Young Love – Biscuits & Gravy
Young Love kicks off on a high note with “Girl So Fine,” where Huddleston’s warm, inviting vocals are beat only by the complex arrangement of which he is a part. Every instrument shines through this song: From Sam RP’s calculated, rhythmic guitar to Eric Tait Jr.’s punchy trumpet, the ensemble breaks down into individual, accessible elements on the album opener, a clear acknowledgement that it takes each of the seven to complete their whole. Such delicate production has been lost in this already-rare genre in recent years, so it’s refreshing when a band opts for that full, wholesome sound over intense, soul-sucking compression.
Huddleston’s voice is hot – the man is a vocal powerhouse with studied control, a dynamic combination that lends him the special ability to riddle his melodies with subtle emotion and familiar personality. His careful thoughts, therefore, feel that much more honest on “Down with You,” as he sings about that moment of truth with that special other:
You’ve got one chance to figure out
What to say, don’t force it out
Timing is gonna be right on time
‘Cause she knows just what you’re gonna say
Before you say a thing
Look into her eyes and sing:
“Baby I could love you more
Than anyone you loved before
Let me help you understand
The things he couldn’t do, I can do”
“Down with You” is one of those special songs that will hook into your inner rhythm and drive you wild. The sweet sincerity and simplicity of the lyrics lend themselves well to the hypnosis of the chorus. “Let me get down with you, down with you, down with you,” sings Huddleston, repeating that singular message as if it’s all he’s ever wanted in this life.
Biscuits & Gravy actually deal with themes of love, lust, and the messy in-between more than a few times across Young Love. On “Heartbreaker,” the band fight a battle over the heart and the mind, knowing all too well that the well-traveled impulsive road ends in hurt… but is it possible that the pain is worth the memory? Sometimes, the answer might be yes. That’s for us to figure out, individually.
Huddleston and crew are certainly up for getting down in a number of ways. “Girl So Fine” finds the band controlled by that hearty midnight desire:
Let me make this crystal clear:
I just want your body
Don’t pretend I’m insincere,
‘Cause you know that you want it
Plenty of male soul-pop singers have gone there and done that: Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, Adam Lambert, etc. Similarities abound, in fact, between Young Love and the likes of Thriller or The 20/20 Experience. Just like those artists, Biscuits & Gravy are searching for meaning in the many things they call “love.”
Meanwhile, they’re just as busy carving out an identifiable sound. It’s not easy stand out in the worlds of soul, pop-funk, and however else one might label this music. Somehow, Biscuits & Gravy manage to shine.
Part of this comes through the album’s midsection. “Gravy” is a funky instrumental number featuring some experimentation and exploration of the sonic landscape. Spacey enough to sound different but groovy enough to just vaguely recall Stevie Wonder’s “Contusion,” the interlude slows the album down, readying listeners for the weight of “Twenty Five.”
Doesn’t matter what you say, there’s no way I can change
and you’d know
Seems like everywhere I turn, there’s concern I can’t learn
and you’d know
“Twenty Five” is fresh and different, a welcome change of pace from Young Love‘s barrage of hormone-driven tracks. Biscuits & Gravy look inward on their darkest and deepest moment as they deal with age-related expectations and the responsibilities befalling those in the “real world.”
Life’s too fast, can’t control it
Time won’t stop, and you know it
Listen: “Twenty Five” – Biscuits & Gravy
Huddleston’s voice is on full grind as he wrestles internal versus external pressures. “Twenty Five” captures a literal coming-of-age – one that our world doesn’t necessarily prepare us for. Sure, we know at some point you grow up – but what does that entail in 2016? What does “maturity” equate to, in our modern, globalized world? Are we destined to be like those before us – to grow rigid and stale in our old age? To substitute enthusiasm and childlike wonder for firmness and sure-footed attitudes? That’s Biscuits & Gravy’s big question: They’re still searching for answers.
It’s a race against time, and we’re all competing. Biscuits & Gravy hit hard with “Twenty Five,” a raw moment of vulnerability for the band.
Young Love‘s second half maintains a slower, mellowed-out attitude. “Shine” is a wondrous love song with curious jazz-induced chord progressions, and “Turn My Way” paints a situation of paralyzing amour, with a hook similar to that of “Down with You.”
The band turn things around one last time in “Real Talk,” the low-key album closer. Huddleston sings a modern lullaby, lush with the world’s gravity and the strength of its realities:
This game’s all about the cash
The cars, the fame,
and everybody sings it the same
Everybody’s so young, and so numb
So I’m looking out for number one
His words melt over Mark “Ghost” Steinert’s whirling keys as he does his best to present his truest self. A nimble saxophone solo, courtesy of Craig Hill, slices into the dream with tender crispness. “Should I go with the flow?” Huddleston asks to no one in particular. “Real Talk” brings the album to a close with wise words and a positive reflection of self.
Young Love brings with it a message from the band: “Lyrically, ‘Young Love’ is very personal to us, but the stories of brief connections, missed chances, and lasting love will strike a chord with anyone who has experienced the beautiful chaos of their early-20’s. We meant this to be an expressive record, and we hope you’ll take a listen as we journey through the ups and downs that have made us who we are today.“
Biscuits & Gravy bring the magic moments home on Young Love, crafting a bright and expansive record that captures the crossroads that define our twenties. David Huddleston’s confident croons beg us to join him on that triumphant journey. Answers may not always be readily available, but Biscuits & Gravy certainly pose plenty of questions. Their mix of youthful and mature themes twists nicely into their blend of new and old sounds: The band is neither willing, nor ready to compartmentalize their many characters, and why should they? As long as they stay true to themselves, then they are being true to the music.
Young Love can be seen as a collection of short stories, each a different puzzle piece speaking to greater themes in the young adult narrative. Who and what are we searching for? What risks are we willing to take? How do we assert ourselves? How do we share our truest self with those around us? Biscuits & Gravy take us on that journey, from the highest high to the lowest low. It’s an adventure for sure, and it’s one worth taking.
cover photo: Biscuits & Gravy live