Free Association with Major and the Monbacks

by James Duval

Major and the Monbacks are a band that’s not afraid to admit their music is rooted in the past. Describing their sound as a merger of “60’s rock n roll, psychedelic twang, soaring three-part harmonies, and the high energy and horn-laden grit of southern soul”, it’s easy to find points of origins for a specific song. Their self-titled debut album arrives on May 12 and was recorded on vintage equipment at the Welcome to 1979 Studio in Nashville, TN giving it a sound that feels like a lost classic from an era before the band members were even born. What follows is a list of five songs that stood out and the images from the past I found myself associating them with.



The lead single and the first track that finds all the pieces fitting together. With the combination of keys, a soulful lead vocal, call-and-response running throughout, and the right amount of horns, it reminds one of something that might have come from Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” album.


Don’t Say A Word

While performances of this song find lead singer Neal Friedman seated at his keyboard, I can easily see him handing the playing of that instrument to another member of the band while he pleads to an invisible lover, kneeling on the stage and taking the mic stand with him a la Charles Bradley.


She Don’t Knock

This slow burner features a guitar that alternates from scorching blues to soft and psychedelic in a matter of seconds. The horns are joined by an organ in the last minutes giving the track a Blood, Sweat, and Tears feel, specifically their multi-part “Symphony For The Devil” from 3.


Be My Baby

A mixture of ska, soul, and doo-wop. If you try hard enough, you can see Fonzie hitting the jukebox in the diner and  this song comes from the speakers. A dance party instantaneously breaks out. Girls in poodle skirts and guys in letter jackets crowd the dance floor. Someone tries the fish.


I Do

This track finds the band doing their best Otis Redding impression. The music and vocals go full throttle and never let up. Neal wails in a way that makes me wonder how he doesn’t wear out his vocal chords doing this night after night. A song with this much kinetic energy has to be the last song on an album and the final song of a live set, because how do you follow it up?


More information on Major and the Monbacks can be found on their website. Their debut album and other releases can be purchased at On Saturday May 16th, they open the Runway Stage at the Lava Music Festival in Suffolk, Virginia.