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Thursday, Feb 16 2006 | 13:28

Singer Nicole Willis has teamed up with Finland’s premier Funk band The Soul Investigators. Their album “Keep Reachin Up” will be released on Timmion Records.

The album’s lead single “If This Ain’t Love (Don’t Know What Is)” was nominated by Gilles Peterson of BBC as one of the best songs of the year 2005. An up-tempo, inspired and deceivingly simple track “If This Ain’t Love” brings to mind releases by legendary soul labels such as Motown and current music by the likes of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. Peaking at number 4 on the national Finnish charts “If This Ain’t Love” has been lauded by the Rare Groove connoisseurs as Northern Soul for the new millennium.

The sound of this group reminds me of dancing to the new James Brown 7″ in the record shop on Clarkson Avenue with my sister when we were 6 & 8 years old, the Brooklyn-born Nicole has described the album. The follow-up single “My Four Leaf Clover”, released on 45 in the coming weeks, continues in the same style. The album’s production courtesy of Didier, the man behind the rough sound that the Timmion label is known for is sparse, but rich in detail, and showcases Didier’s knack for keeping the sound cohesive. Nicole’s vocals and the funky backing of The Soul Investigators are a perfect match.

Nicole Willis states it plainly. It’s her third solo album that sees her pair up with the native Helsinki-New Orleanzified Soul Investigators. She recorded 2 albums fronting acid jazz group Repercussions titled “Earth & Heaven & Charmed Life” on Warner Brothers & Pony Canyon, respectively. She has since released two solo albums, both on Sähko/Puu Recordings: “Be It” (2004) and the critically acclaimed “Soul Makeover” (2000), which was described by The Face as possibly the best R&B album of the year. Both albums feature production from husband Jimi Tenor, Maurice Fulton, Veikka Ercola, Nuspirit Helsinki & the artist herself, Nicole Willis. The Soul Investigators, under different guises like Didier’s Sound Spectrum, Ostari Njengi and Soultors, have impressed fans of Deep Funk for nearly a decade. Their numerous 45 releases like “Chicken”, “Soulful Trip” and “U-Bo-Te” and LP’s “Soul Strike!” (Soul Fire, 2001) and “Home Cooking” (Timmion, 2003) have found their way onto the turntables of vinyl enthusiasts all around the globe. “Keep Reachin Up” is sure-shot album that is not to be missed.

The album Nicole Willis & The Soul InvestigatorsKeep Reaching Up” (Timmion) is going to be released March 31, 2006.

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