I first heard “You Ain’t The Problem” on last week’s Later with Jools Holland and was blown away with its modern take on 60s rock/soul.
What was even more surprising is how different the version on the record was to the live performance. Many current performances rely heavily on recreating the album experience live, using samplers and playback machines to fill out the sound. But Michael Kiwanuka and his band didn’t take this approach.
Instead, they used their musicianship and talent to turn a track into something more organic, and closer to a more traditional live performance, which is refreshing to hear in a live show these days.
The album version of the track takes things in a more psychedelic rock direction, with distorted guitar, key stabs and bass lines. These subside for the verses, which musically go into soul, overlaid by Michaels vocal flow. His vocal is both fast, smooth and highly engaging.
The track clearly is based around a singer songwriter performance and its basis could easily be from a classic soul record, but the way the track flicks between multiple genres and blends elements of each shows the hip hop production heritage behind the record. This results in a track that straddles the line between modern and nostalgic styles, and mixes them both together to make a perfect cocktail.
As the opening track from his self titled record, “You ain’t the problem” sets a high bar that the rest of the album manages to uphold: