“Deep in the black of yo’ mind/ Lies the funky of another kind.”
~Amp Fiddler, Waltz of a Ghetto Fly
Amp Fiddler’s debut, Waltz of a Ghetto Fly, hardly resurrects the aura of Blaxsploitation ghetto fabulousness. Rather, Fiddler’s “superfly” has evoked comparisons to throwbacks like Sly and the Family Stone and contemporaries like D’Angelo, with a hint of Detroit’s dance and house scene. Through subtle blends of soul, funk, R&B, house and jazz, Fiddler paints his ghetto-scapes with a certain grace that traverses generations. It’s easy to lump Fiddler with the rest of the soulsters, but Waltz demonstrates that Fiddler’s many styles create “neo-soul” of another kind.
Hailing from the now (in)famous 7 Mile in Detroit, Joseph “Amp” Fiddler’s inspirations aren’t just homegrown. Once the lead keyboardist for George Clinton and the P-Funk All-stars, Fiddler has played with Jamiroquai, Prince and the Brand New Heavies and recorded with George Clinton, Maxwell, Too Short and Raphael Saadiq. Such diversity has allowed Fiddler to move from sideman to front man with ease.
Longtime friend J.Dilla (a.k.a. Jay Dee, one-half of Jaylib) co-produces a couple tracks on Waltz, and Raphael Saadiq lends credits on the boards as well. Teamed with Fiddler’s P-Funk “spacey sounds” background, Waltz shows it ain’t nobody’s business but the grown folks’. Despite the sometimes pedestrian lyrics, Fiddler’s sound offers lessons in groove theory. He croons on Waltz about relationship failures and romantic urgencies without sounding like a wimp. The funk-dripping “You Played Me” and “I Believe in You” is coated in Fidder’s honeyed soul with a Sly/Clinton delivery that screams, yelps and moans confrontations with trifling women without looking back.
Contrary to the wife-beater-fitted, chain-rockin’ Treach look-a-likes of R&B, Fiddler offers an alternative to his ghetto-centricity that doesn’t end when he gets in her pants. Smoothed-out “Dreamin’ ” (co-written by Saadiq), sounds familiar to fellow Detroit-native Dwele’s “Find A Way.” He floats through day-to-day yearnings of a crush well into the night with the instrumental “Possibilities.” The slinky pianos and subtle live guitars and horns offer melodies that set off a smoky-cafe feel, letting romantics know that nighttime is the right time. On “Unconditional Eyes,” the album’s sole ballad, Courtney Jackson’s sultry background vocals and Fiddler’s whispering honesty show he’s not just looking for that usual groupie love.
Fiddler descends into bubblegum R&B on tracks like “Superficial” and “Soul Divine.” “Love and War” falls short compared to other recent critiques of global warfare; he simply moans, “We need love.” Still, Fiddler does what he does best on these tracks: he freaks genres together, texturizing the tracks with a house and jazz wrapping. Fiddler soul-struts in his debut, serving musical mash-ups with his P-Funk base. Waltz strays from the quickly tired Stevie Wonder sound-a-likes nu-soul genre, proving Fiddler’s mothership has indeed landed.