Stones Throw label head Peanut Butter Wolf was sure he was hearing long-lost soul classics when someone slipped him the first singles by Mayer Hawthorne (nee Andrew Mayer Cohen). He quickly came to realize the shocking truth—that a nerdy, white 30-year-old from Ann Arbor, Michigan, had, by handling the instrumental and vocal duties in his apartment, somehow conjured the ghosts of classic Motown all by his lonesome.
Hawthorne turned out one of the best soul records in decades with last October's A Strange Arrangement, and it really is hard to believe that Holland/Dozier/Holland doesn't appear anywhere in the credits since the disc apes everyone from The Temptations ("Your Easy Lovin' Ain't Pleasin' Nothin'") to Smokey Robinson ("Just Ain't Gonna Work Out"). Having already spun off an album of instrumental tracks and a crate-digging compilation of Hawthorne's favorite soul rarities (Soul With A Hole, Vol. 1), you can bet A Strange Arrangement will only gain popularity with the onset of spring, 'cause this, ladies and gentlemen, is baby-making music. And when Hawthorne and his backing band The County bring it to the stage Tuesday, it's likely to be the best dance-party rolling through town this busy SXSW week.