Thomas Brenneck keeps a few pots on the stove, including as the guitarist for the Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and is also a part of the Budos Band and the El Michels Affair. In the last few years though, he’s gone from sideman to bandleader with the Menahan Street Band and their work with Charles Bradley. He and the MSB have been touring behind Bradley’s recent album and he’s currently at work on a new MSB album. We talked about his songwriting history, sitting across the table from Jay-Z and why his latest single, “The Crossing,” originally was entitled “I’m From Shaolin, Too.” 1

The Sidebar #7: Tom Brenneck of the Menahan Street Band


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Music used in the podcast:

  • The Menahan Street Band: Home Again (from Make the Road By Walking, Dunham/Daptone 2008)
  • The Daktaris’ “In the Middle” (from Soul Explosion, Desco 1998)
  • The Mighty Imperials: Matador (from Thunder Chicken, Daptone 2001)
  • The Menahan Street Band: The Crossing (forthcoming on Dunham/Daptone 2011)
  • Charles Bradley: Heart of Gold (from 7″, Dunham/Daptone 2011)
  • The Menahan Street Band: Make the Road By Walking (from Make the Road By Walking, Dunham/Daptone 2008)
  • Jay-Z: Roc Boys (from American Gangster, Roc-A-Fella 2007)
  • Charles Bradley: The World (Is Burning Up In Flames) + Heartaches and Pain (from No Time For Dreaming, Dunham/Daptone 2011)
  • The Menahan Street Band: Every Day a Dream (forthcoming on Dunham/Daptone 2011)
  • The O’Kaysions: I’m a Girl Watcher (from 7″, ABC 1968. Also on Sweet and Soulful ’60s)
  • Ice Cube: It Was a Good Day (from The Predator, Priority 1992)
  1. At the risk of suffering from hubris, I’m real proud of this particular podcast. I think it’s a good interview but more than that, talking to a songwriter gave me many opportunities to build more layers of music. I definitely spent more time in post-production than any previous podcast and I hope the end result reflects it.


Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: I Learned the Hard Way
Give It Back
From I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone, 2010)

If you know anything about me or this site, you know I’m inclined to like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings for various reasons. That’s why I find it hard to properly articulate the kinds of superlatives to lay upon their new album without sounding like I’m predictably buttering their bread but trust me on this:

This is the best album they’ve ever put out. By far. I went in with fairly high expectations and this crushed ’em. I’m mind-blown.

I’m trying to review the album for NPR so I don’t want to do a total brain spill right here but the short story is that this album has such a diverse set of styles on it and almost all of it is executed to perfection, including great dips into blues and gospel (we need more of this from them!) I don’t have the formal liners in front of me so I don’t know how produced and arranged all the songs but whoever you are, kudos. Incredible accomplishment. I included their first single and then one of my other favorite songs (of which I had an embarrassment of riches to choose from).

Anyways, just cop this when it drops and be prepared to enjoy one of the best albums you’ll hear this year.

Speaking of which, can I just show Erykah Badu’s brand new album some love?

Erykah Badu: Turn Me Away (Get Munny)
Fall In Love (Your Funeral)
From New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Anhk) (Motown, 2010)

I’m totally showing my age here by picking these two songs in particular…after all, both have roots in a very distinctly ’90s hip-hop sound but hell, this entire album feels like a throwback to ’97 in some ways. And look, how the hell am I not going to be into Badu referencing’s Biggie’s “Warning” on a track that flips up Eddie Kendricks’ “Intimate Friends”? Or hear her remake Sylvia Striplin’s “You Can’t Turn Me Away“? Instant heavy rotation. (Oh, and the rest of the album is pretty damn good too).