That Hard Proof – formerly and/or still alternately known as Hardproof Afrobeat – exists, much less released an album, is simply amazing. Consider it: in Austin, most bands with just three or four members probably average single digit gigs for the duration of their careers (if you will). Schedules, lives, outside interests, personal and musical differences — all common and valid reasons for promising bands to splinter. So, what were the odds of a band of nine (credited!) musicians sticking around long enough to record an album of fifteen original funky afrobeat tunes? These guys play in bands as wide ranging as The Calm Blue Sea, the Bruce James Soultet and 100 Flowers and as well traveled as Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, yet they somehow found time for Hard Proof. Beyond amazing.
Across their self-titled debut, Hard Proof play a remarkably consistent blend of funk, afrobeat, and jazz. Horn and brass driven, as expected, the band’s songs feature the afrobeat genre’s trademark snaking guitars and poly-rhythms (laid down by a drummer and an army of percussionists) across a few moods; Upbeat hip shakers rub elbows with the slower darker turns, but the songs flow naturally. On songs like “No Consideration” and “Buffalo”, the horns take a step back, letting Gerado Larios and Aaron Sleator’s guitars and keyboards ratchet up the heat a bit. On these songs – and “Bailwick” in particular – it’s hard to imagine the listener who could resist the urge and stand like a statue. And what about when the band slows down – ever so slightly – on “Move In”? Well, those same listeners still aren’t going to stop dancing to the groove.
The real fun, and accomplishment, of Hard Proof’s debut isn’t that they recorded fifteen really good original songs or that they did so while peppering Austin with the other gigs. No, the fun is that they also injected these songs with bits of their personal musical heritage; When “Stolen Goods” twists off into psychedelia and “Buzz Bizz” turns from meandering to sultry, Hard Proof transform from followers and students into teachers and creators. They deserve all the credit possible for achieving much more than any outsider could have ever guessed.