Welcome back, funker



After their electrifying funk-dub-Sharrock debut, where’d 5ive Style go? Well, there were some radical changes in direction and personnel, and then a bit of a disappearing act for these talented instrumentalists. But voilà, they’re back! And as the package authoritatively sez, "5ive Style is Bill Dolan, Jeremy Jacobsen, John Herndon and LeRoy Bach," just in case you were worried about holdovers from their "Southern boogie rock complete with vocals" incarnation.

The Stylers return to streamlined funk land – these tunes have the economy that the album title suggests. A couple of cuts, including the opener, find a tight blend of electric and acoustic string work, stuffing a bit of bluegrass agility into these funky pipe bombs. Elsewhere, it’s Sharrock-style funk nuggets, with scratchy guitar played with banjo-hands, and rhythms informed by reggae and the Crescent City. A nice surprise comes with the inclusion of "The Lost Oar," from Jacobsen’s Lonesome Organist repertoire. Here, the band takes the once-whimsical tune into TV funk-theme land, making like the Meters rewriting the theme to "Welcome Back, Kotter." Jacobsen also gets to bring out his multi-instrumentalist moves in "The Fancy Dance in Jeremy’s Pants," a short and self-explanatory little ditty. Dolan shows off some Bill Frisell-like cinematic atmospherics on "Here We Go." Meanwhile, the whole gang sets the studio knobs to complete dub-out on "Hit the Decks," courtesy of Herndon’s exemplary awareness of dub drum sounds, and Bach’s phat, spliff-padded basslines (Casey Rice’s studio tweak expertise is probably in there somewhere, too). And "Pledge Drive" should be on standby this season to help raise some extra funds for "Afropop Worldwide." Dolan’s lines sound like they came out of Mali’s ’70s hit parade – they go up against Jacobsen’s steel drums and everyone goes home dancing.

It’s great that these crack musicians could bury whatever hatchets they had and pick up their axes as 5ive Style once again.