Amp Fiddler

Waltz of a Ghetto Fly (Genuine/PIAS America)

Pete 'n' Keely Kalliope Stage, 2134 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights Through August 8, 216-321-0870
Detroit musician Amp Fiddler's Waltz of a Ghetto Fly sounds like an homage to Sly and the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On without the drowsy, cocaine-induced lows, or D'Angelo's Voodoo without the love-affair-as-blood-soaked-ritual motif. In other words, it's all about impassioned extemporizing, R&B as an end unto itself, and achieving ecstasy through long jams with little to distinguish them beyond a strong hook and a chorus.

Thanks to stints of work with everyone from Jay Dee to Prince, Amp Fiddler's performances are top-notch, and soul aficionados will probably get off on the funky arrangements he unspools from his keyboard. Still, one wonders how fly he would be if he tethered his numbers to great songs instead of high-end post-production techniques. "Eye to Eye," the lone standout, provides a clue: "I can talk a gang o' shit to you but/Everybody needs someone/To be real, yeah," he drops over a blurry melody that whines like a theremin. The lyrics are no Stevie Wonder product, but the compelling verse-chorus structure he creates here draws attention to the expert musicianship; elsewhere the equation is flipped, with somewhat frustrating results.

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