Funk has been making a major comeback in the last few years, and for evidence supporting this, I’d recommend taking a peek at the underground pulse and some of its brightest new stars – such as Billy Ray Rock. Billy Ray Rock’s new single “Get the Funk” is a celebration of funk that doesn’t tether itself to any specific movement in the indie circuit, yet its identity is as indebted to the legends of the genre as any of its contemporaries’ would be. “Get the Funk” takes the model for unadulterated swing and propels it into a modern setting, making it hard for anyone who hears this track to walk away unaffected by what they’ve just listened to in full-color stereo sound.

I love how robust an instrumental wallop Billy Ray Rock is throwing in our direction in this song, and even though it’s a little more indulgent than what some of his peers have been toying with lately, that could be part of the reason why it stands out as much as it does this summer. You don’t have to be a professional music critic like myself to be able to decipher the organic components in this single from the tinny nonsense that often finds itself in the mix of more mainstream R&B/funk crossovers, but for those of us who are true blue audiophiles, the quality of the tonality here is hard to beat. Billy Ray Rock values authenticity, and that’s easy to see even in the most cursory of listening sessions with “Get the Funk.”

Though I can’t be certain, given that I wasn’t in the room with him for the composing process, something tells me that this artist was thinking a lot about the stage when he wrote “Get the Funk.” For this being a studio recording, there’s so much vitality to the sway of the band that it feels like the floor beneath the speakers is quaking – even in the subtler moments of the song. I can picture this being all the more powerful in a live performance, where the crowd and Billy Ray Rock could both feed into the aforementioned vitality with an unpredictable energy that only comes from crowds of people piling into a concert hall and sharing an aural experience together.

While mainstream R&B has debatably fallen short of what a lot of longtime fans have come to demand out of its best artists, indie players like Billy Ray Rock are keeping the spirit of soul and funk alive this summer. “Get the Funk” is more than a throwback to the days of vinyl and vintage grooving – unlike other artists both in and outside of his scene, this is one singer and songwriter who has loftier ambitions that exceed simply wanting to attain the same kind of an impact that his heroes once did. This is a new era for funk, and with folks like Billy Ray Rock handling business in the underground, it’s my hope that the FM sound of R&B’s many-splendored tree of subgenres will soon improve as well.

Sebastian Cole