Charlie Faye and the Fayettes Bring Their Girl-Group Harmonies to New Heights on 'The Whole Shebang'
There has been a lot of debate over the past few years about what the definition of “Americana” music is. While it seems to constitute an increasingly large swath of the music world, most people agree the core of it is a deep respect for music's roots. When Charlie Faye and the Fayettes debuted in 2016 with their self-titled first album, the respect for roots was obvious. Channeling the best of '60s close harmony girl groups like The Ronettes and Martha and the Vandellas, Charlie Faye, Betty Soo (whose other band Nobody's Girl made our list of standout albums of 2018), and Akina Adderly found success both with live audiences and with television shows like the Archie comics reboot Riverdale. With their new album, The Whole Shebang, out Feb. 8, Charlie Faye and the Fayettes brings their '60s style vocals into the early '70s with more emphasis on soul, r&b, and even tinges of disco.
Fans of the group will find plenty of familiarity with the album's opener, “1-2-3-4.” It's a straightforward uptempo love ditty that checks all of the right boxes for catchy melodies, doo-wop harmonies, and sing-along choruses.
With the album's second song, and first single, “I Don't Need No Baby” you see the maturation of the band's sound. While producer Eric Holden does an admirable job of bringing a Phil Spectoresque feel to the entire album, the real Spector (who, while a musical genius, has proven to be a pretty terrible person) would likely have no idea what to do with a trio of ladies with such independent sensibilities. Faye starts the song trying to let a potential lover off easy, saying “we'd be better off as friends” before tiring of his continuing advances and blowing him off with “how could a girl like me not want a guy like you? Get a clue...”
“Night People” further pulls Faye and her band into the '70s. Co-written with Bill DeMain, the song has the shimmering orchestration of a proto-disco song. Inspired by Tommy Dorsey's cover of an Allen Toussaint song by the same name, Faye puts a sultry edge on her silky croon, with Soo and Adderly beefing up their own contributions to match.
But the song that is the biggest departure on The Whole Shebang is also the album's undoubted standout track. Album closer “You Gotta Give It Up (Party Song)” was, according to the album's press material, inspired by James Brown but ends up sounding like the middle ground between The Runaways and early work from The Go-Gos. Co-written with the band's bassist Eric Holden, the bassline is out front here and Faye's smooth delivery is replaced by an almost staccato clip, a clap track, and Soo and Soo and Adderly's more aggressive “Oooooooh-HA!” Living up to its name, it's the album's best party song, and the one I found myself going back to again and again.
Faye and her Fayettes deservedly get most of the credit for how catchy The Whole Shebang is, but her backing band deserves their share of accolades. The album is filled with some smart rockabilly guitar licks from Marcus Watkins and Bill Kirchen, dance-inspiring basslines from Holden, and wall of sound-producing string arrangements from Steve Elson.
While Charlie Faye and the Fayettes get lumped into the “revivalist” movement, The Whole Shebang is evidence that they are growing, taking the solid foundation of '60s girl groups and bringing their own modern experiences to the party to produce something that stands on its own. This album leaves me wanting more and interested to see where the trio goes next as they find their unique voice.
Currently, Charlie Faye and the Fayettes only have one announced show for 2019, an album release party at the Continental Club on Feb. 8, but you can check their website for upcoming dates.