Chicago soul bands with three-piece horn sections are pretty rare these days, and even rarer at Front Range Barbeque, a venue mostly known for booking bluegrass, folk and Americana acts. But Lubriphonic frontman Giles Corey — whose Windy City rhythm and blues group is out on the road more than 30 weeks a year — isn't exactly worried.
"We've played some weird spaces," says Corey, who toured the world with artists such as Otis Rush, Bo Diddley and Magic Slim before starting Lubriphonic. "Just last week we played a bowling alley in Brooklyn called the Brooklyn Bowl. It's like a real hipstered-out bowling alley, you know, all these art school kids in '80s clothes bowling and drinking PBR. It was kind of funny."
That's nothing, though, compared to the gig Corey once played surrounded by curling irons and blow dryers. "It was a beauty salon graduation party, it was at Christmas time, and they made me wear a Santa hat," he recalls. "I don't know if that's as weird as it is demeaning."
Closer to home, and possibly more gratifying, was the group's performance at the Chicago Blues Festival this past June. "We had literally come off three weeks on the road, and we just fell out of the van and played the show. It was kind of strange, but really cool, playing a big festival like that in our hometown and seeing a lot of familiar faces."
Helping the band drive home its fusion of soul, rock and pop influences was Ivan Neville, who joined them onstage at the festival and also guests on a new album slated for late September release.
"It's called The Gig Is On and we're actually mixing it right now," says an enthusiastic Corey, who wrote the lion's share of the album's 14 original tracks. Neville's organ and clavinet are featured on four songs, including a cover of Curtis Mayfield's "If There's a Hell Below We're All Going to Go."
"That's always been a favorite song of mine, and just on a lark we started doing it in the live show. Plus, when Ivan sat in with us at the Blues Festival, we jammed on that, so it seemed like a good idea to throw it on the album, too. We just kind of did it in one take."
Already hailed by Relix magazine for its "superb, adventurous, diverse, simply mesmerizing instrumental work," Lubriphonic's current lineup finds Corey and drummer/cofounder Richard King working with a full complement of experienced funk, blues and gospel musicians, including trumpeter Ron Haynes, sax player Garrick Patten, trombonist Norman Palm, keyboardist Andrew Toombs and bassist Pennal Johnson.
Overall, says Corey, this new album is something of a departure: "It's a more retro, softer sound than the last one. I mean, it's still high-energy and it's still all about the dance party, but we tried to have tighter-sounding arrangements."
And with the addition of a keyboardist, Corey says he's now able to lay back a bit more as a guitarist. That, in turn, has freed him up to focus more on singing and songwriting.
"I'm just reaching for more of a soulful feel," he says. "I'm trying to dig deep as much as possible."