Album Review: Chris Lujan & Electric Butter — The Real Thing

A couple of months ago, I wrote a Metro Silicon Valley feature about Raza del Soul, a California record label dedicated to preserving old (and celebrating new) Chicano soul music. Headed by J.M. Valle, Raza del Soul does important work that also happens to bring wonderful music to today’s listeners. In addition to reissuing 45 r.p.m. singles, Valle distributes new recordings by current artists and labels like Black Diamond. One of the most recent – and best – among those is The Real Thing from Chris Lujan & Electric Butter (feat. Andre Cruz).

Anyone who appreciates Charles Bradley or Sharon Jones simply must hear this record. The production and arrangement values are so amazingly spot-on that you’ll swear the record was cut four or more decades ago. A real horn section, a taut and soulful band and impassioned vocals (with no Autotune) are just a few of the virtues of the music on the truth-in-labeling The Real Thing.

Vocalist Andre Cruz is out front, while bandleader Lujan – who writes or cowrites most of the material – is on hand playing multiple instruments (primarily bass). The band includes guitarist Charlie Hunter and keyboardist Adam Scone; the latter is a veteran of both Sugarman 3 and The Dap-Kings. Cruz adopts a sweet soul falsetto on “Somewhere Else,” sounding like an even more organic Mayer Hawthorne.

Valle may or may not have coined the genre term “souldies,” but it certainly applies here. This music is dripping with authenticity, but none of that would matter if it didn’t sound as great as it does. The sweet soul revival remains in full bloom, and with the support of Valle and distributing for labels like the Black Diamond, the future looks bright indeed. The Real Thing — just that — is essential.