Amp Fiddler

Waltz of a Ghetto Fly

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Listeners familiar with keyboardist/vocalist Amp Fiddler before his pair of 2002/2003 12" releases likely knew him through his associations with Detroit house figure Moodymann and, to a greater extent, his run-ins with George Clinton and Prince. In 1990, he also recorded an album with his brother Bubz, released under the name Mr. Fiddler; this project came and went without much notice, mostly because it failed to fit in with much of anything else at the time. Come 2003, however, you couldn't be a house head or read a dance-music-for-grown-folks magazine without hearing him or reading about him. In addition to the singles, Fiddler was the star of the phenomenal Moodymann production "I'm Doing Fine," credited to Amp Dog Knight, as well as Only Child's upbeat disco-house track "U Bring Me Vibes." He also played a role in the Carl Craig-helmed Detroit Experiment, providing keys work and doing the vocal duties on a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Too High." After a couple decades spent floating around, Fiddler finally came up with his first solo album. Most of the cuts from those singles reappear here in slightly different forms, while the remainder is all new. Just like the Mr. Fiddler album, Waltz of a Ghetto Fly is something of an anomaly, mixing up the occasional 4/4 house track with funky R&B that's reminiscent of There's a Riot Goin' On-era Sly Stone (this goes beyond the references to "You Caught Me Smilin'" in "You Played Me") and Fiddler's past connections. Since the house tracks also draw heavily upon '70s funk, the album is more cohesive than you'd expect. Throughout, Fiddler maintains a steady, assured, laid-back flow. Even at his most aggressive -- as on the protest song "Love and War" (with backing courtesy of Moodymann) and the sweaty "Superficial" -- it goes down smoothly and richly, as suitable for background listening as it is a get-together. Hearing Fiddler's voice -- alternating between a butter-smooth croon and a deep-throated yowl -- and sensitive keyboard wriggles throughout the course of an entire album is a pure joy.

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