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66 Years In The Making: We Review Sonny Knight’s “I’m Still Here”

Where do you start with Sonny Knight? Luckily, I was able to sit down recently with the musician for an interview, so the answer is “the beginning”. My conversation will hit Newswhistle later this week, but today we are here to talk about I’m Still Here; Sonny’s 2014 album with his crackerjack backing band, The Lakers.

Sonny is 66-years-old. He released a 45 RPM in 1965 when he was a teenager, joined the army, took a straight job afterward, and has laid relatively low until about 2012.

The interview will fill in some of the blanks, but the takeaway here is that I’m Still Here is Sonny’s first full-length album.

Sonny is the band leader, singer, and soul of the band, but The Lakers lay down the grooves so hard and tight that the message Sonny delivers is unmistakable: this is old school. This is a tent revival, a dance party, and an emotional howl not at, but for the world.

You should listen and you should move when you hear the opening of “Juicy Lucy”. It sounds like you walked in on a party already in progress. Don’t worry, though. You were always invited, even if you didn’t know it. Is it a love song to a hamburger? Maybe. If you have eaten a juicy lucy at Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis, you would understand.

“Caveman” continues the party with perhaps the greatest “1,2,3,4!” intro ever. Depending on your stamina you might need to swallow amphetamines like an old school mod to keep up with this one.

Now, the emotional center, the heart comes early on with “I’m Still Here” (pts. 1 and 2). Again, read the interview later this week, but these two tracks do a damn good job of autobiography as well as manifesto of Sonny Knight And The Lakers’ general ethos: everyone has a past to dwell upon, a future to fret over, but don’t neglect today. Sonny is still here. You are still here. Today.

Back in celebration mode, the band rips a couple of stompers that dare you to resist. You want to dance. Can you groove to “Sonny’s Boogaloo”? He’ll teach you the steps if you are open to it.

Side B opens with the natural sequel to “Juicy Lucy”. “Hey Girl” finds Sonny a little further along in his relationship with Lucy (not a hamburger after all).

He careens from full octane Otis Redding in “When You’re Gone” to a slinky concoction called “Sugar Man” in which the Laker horns are so sweet they might give you cavities.

By the end of the record, Sonny is through playing games. You know dancing is good for you, and if you have avoided shaking and/or shimmying so far with I’m Still Here, well, you have some amazing, misguided, self-control. The last cut spells it all out for you: “Get Up And Dance”.

“I worked hard all week long, and now I wanna get down… Everybody get up and dance! It’s what you came here for…”

Right on. Listening to I’m Still Here reminds you that you should feel free to dance for the past, even dance for the future, but nothing should trump dancing for today. The best music doesn’t set out to teach anything, but by the end of it the listener has almost always learned something. And it should make you wanna get down in the process.

Wisdom is the result of experience, and a willingness to share with others. Sonny Knight has truckloads of all of the above. Watch their site for tour information, because when the Sonny Knight carnival hits the road, don’t resist. Get down.

Here’s a bonus video of Sonny Knight And His Fabulous Lakers performing “Day Tripper” at Minneapolis’s mighty First Avenue:

I’m Still Here is available from Secret Stash Records (vinyl, digital), iTunes, Google Play, and your friendly neighborhood record store.

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NewsWhistle music contributor Chad Werner is “ahead of the curve, behind the times.” You can contact this rock n’ roll sphinx at chad@newswhistle.com.

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PHOTO CREDITS
Lead-in Image Courtesy of Sonny Knight