KUMD Album Review: Sonny Knight & The Lakers

Feb 14, 2018

Sonny Knight & The Lakers | I’m Still Here

In honor of Black History Month, we’re revisiting a 2014 album from the late Minnesota musician Sonny Knight.

Saint Paul native Knight was an artist who, among other things, helped revive classic soul in a Midwest city known for its funky rhythm and ‘80s icons. His background ranged from a gospel –filled childhood to seeing the world, fighting in Vietnam and later touring with his band The Lakers. Sonny brings a very cultured and honest take and blends genres, allowing music to flow from the soul.

I’m Still Here’s first track, “Juicy Lucy,” is a gem to Minnesota natives familiar with Matt’s Bar. For non- locals who’ve never been to the burger spot Obama once visited, the tune might seem like any other soul jam. In reality, the powerful soul track is a personal ode to the Twin City of Minneapolis via the personification of the bar’s famous cheese- stuffed burger. A recorded crowd adds an atmosphere that has a certain type of energy, a technique duplicated throughout the album.

A couple tracks later, on “I’m Still Here Pt.1 &2,” we find ourselves hearing Sonny testify about running from fear, trumpets softly playing in the background. This personal advice he gives the listener before the second half begins to resonate even after the song is done playing. As the second half begins, the trumpets pick up steam and the band begins to join in a domino effect. The wholehearted lyrics bring a sense of hope and joy; aided by the band, the song is easily a highlight of the project.

Sonny does a bit of a roll call of instruments on “Get Up and Dance,” calling out bass, drums, organs, etc. When the instruments finally come together, the sound created is a thing of beauty. The track has a party feel due to the recorded crowd sounds without taking away from the music. On this last song the ensemble gives a different type of energy fitting for the end of the record.

On the 17th of June 2017 Sonny passed away at age 69 after battling cancer. Fittingly, he opens his track “When You’re Gone” by detailing himself waiting by the phone for his baby who’s left him distraught and heartbroken. The track is backed by additional vocals, syncing with emphatic horns to paint a picture of a sheriff riding out, a fitting goodbye for an artist who was finally rediscovering his passion.