Big Sam’s Funky Nation is not going to confuse you. On King of the Party, Sam Williams and company pick up the funk-rock blend that Trombone Shorty and Bonerama have been toying with and puts it in your face. Guitars on 10, arena rock drums and the horns blaring like they’re in the phone booth with you. No idea is complicated; when Sam wants to get funky, the Nation goes into James Brown mode for the unfortunately-titled “Krunked Up” (When grandmothers spoke of “getting krunk” during the playoffs, “krunk” lost all hip cred—if it had any left). When Sam wants to party, he declares himself the king of the party in the title cut then backs it up.
As you can imagine, we’re not going to learn life lessons from Big Sam’s lyrics, but this is visceral music. It’s made to be felt, not thought about, and as long as nothing’s off-puttingly dumb, it works. And nothing is; in fact, “See Me Dance” is a charming bit of self-mythologizing and one of the most compelling songs on the album.
King of the Party works because Big Sam knows who he is as a musician and embraces it. His charisma, exuberance and sense of joy translate to the album, which is good because they keep you hooked despite frustratingly low vocal levels throughout. On one track, it sounds like he’s singing through a CB radio, but the air of fun is such that even his dalliance with AutoTune is amusing.