(Self-released, CD, digital download)
While some local acts gravitate toward the psychedelic end of funk, newcomers Questionable Company offer a more soulful, folk-influenced version. The Burlington trio is composed of bassist Max Guyton, drummer Andy Feltus and vocalist Emma Cook, who also plays keys and guitar. Cook's vocals largely define Questionable Company's lifting, expressive sound, but Feltus and Guyton hold up their end with rhythmic backing. The band's recently released self-titled debut album lives up to their self-applied designation as a "small band with a curiously large sound."
Up first is "Devil's Advocate." Like a proper funk tune, it swirls to heady heights. Lest you think the rest of the album will be a typical jam, the three have more up their sleeves than just noodling around.
The third track, "Dayglow," is smooth and dreamlike. In perhaps her best vocal performance, Cook croons lyrics about changing seasons and feelings. Next up is "Makes No Matter." Jazzy, emphatic and soaring, it's the trio's best collective effort. Feltus' drumming is tender, while Guyton's melodic bass lines keep things wistful.
Midway through the album, "Troubles Away" brings the funk to a halt and introduces stripped-down folk. The instrumentation is less exciting but still solid. The trio soon returns to funk-damentals with "Middle of the Night" and "Gravity," the latter of which has lively moments of scat jazz.
"No Map" is an upbeat, relaxed tune about wanderlust. Cook sings, "We don't need no map / it always seems to work out anyhow / May the wind, may the wind be always at our backs. / We don't need no map / we never get where we heading anyway / Those were the days."
"Singing Brakes" finds Cook cleverly reflecting on her own personality and tendencies. "It's not you / it's me / It's my history / I'm a girl on the run / and I like singing brakes on that bus / on my bike / together in harmony / heading downhill so fast / who knows how long these brakes will last," she sings.
The album closes with the eerie, shadowy "Inland Me." Cook's vocals turn hushed and deep, and Guyton's moody bass reverberates throughout. It's a gorgeously dark tune, but it's also startling in comparison to the other tracks. This listener wished the album ended on a more playful note, in keeping with the rest of the album.
Questionable Company is both surprising and pleasing. It incorporates standard folk lyrical themes with touches of jazz and undulating funk grooves. With a sound that is soulful and distinct — but familiar enough to satisfy the Burlington funk crowd — this trio's got a good thing going.
Questionable Company's self-titled debut album is available at questionablecompany.com