Broken Bones…and Pocket Change. It’s All She Left Me With…
As much as I like to keep the theme of my little diatribes here local in nature, a new album from some ‘Bama boys has caught my ear in the last couple of weeks and I figured that I would go ahead an introduce any of you not yet acquainted to St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
Hailing from Birmingham, the six-piece band fronted by power vocalist Paul Janeway first hit the scene in 2013 with two early released EPs Greetings From St. Paul and The Broken Bones and its follow-up Live and In Person, which were enough to garner the young soul band some good attention. By early 2014, the first full-length album Half the City hit the shelves and featured the earliest hits from the EPs: the upbeat shouter “Call Me” and slow soul-burner “Broken Bones and Pocket Change,” which first put the fellas on the map and were strong enough to move them on to appearances on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series, Jools Holland, Craig Ferguson, and Letterman and put them in position to open for The Rolling Stones on a couple of dates in the summer of 2015.
You Got Your Limit, Baby I got Mine…
Now, “Half the City” delivered what early adopters heard in the EPs: Powerhouse soul vocals akin to Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and even a bit of James Brown, all from this bespectacled white dude from B-Ham. It was hitting right about the time that wave of new soul was starting to roll out and take hold with acts like our beloved (and sadly, recently departed) Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings, The Screaming Eagle of Soul Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires and the sassy Lee Fields and The Expressions and that put Janeway and crew in exceptional company and likely helped the debut record land in the Billboard Top 100.
However, now is not as soulful a time as it was a few years back. Charles is off the road fighting cancer and Sharon just lost her battle with it. Those two were easily the true flag bearers of this “new soul revival.” Just as their sophomore effort is coming to bear, the St. Paul fellas are finding themselves a bit out there and on their own and frankly, I don’t think they could have been any more ready for a chance to stand out and shine.
You Got Me Feeling Like… I Can’t Hold Ya…
September 9 saw the release of their second LP Sea of Noise. Its name takes inspiration from an altered Churchill quote and is featured in the three-part recurring anthem of the album Crumbling Lightposts. Its sound is very familiar yet very different from their first long play effort. The Paul Butler-produced album transitions from the more ‘60s soul sound to a funkier ‘70s styled-vibe with Janeway himself changed. He’s still delivering that powerful soul voice but now with a mature restraint that is often as evocative as the guttural shouts of “Half The City” in its boundaries, tension and intensity. It’s delivered in a way that gives this record a sexy darkness that invokes the feel of acts like Bobby Womack, Al Green and Curtis Mayfield. The previous brass-soaked sound gives way to string-driven somberness that creates so much of the intense and deep feel of the album.
“Flow With It (You Got Me Feeling Like)” is the standout hook of the record, kicking off after the first intro of the “Crumbling Lightposts” theme with a funky horn and organ-backed feel that is all but infectious in its groove. The funk continues into the next track, “Midnight on The Earth,” that seems almost a union of Sly Stone soul and funky Prince-like vocals before slipping into the gender-defying “I’ll Be Your Woman,” which smashes Al Green and The Guess Who together with a burner worthy of greats such as Nina Simone or Aretha Franklin.
Other standouts include “All I Ever Wonder,” “Sanctify” and “Waves,” but the whole album, despite really not being intended as a concept album, is only made the better in its entirety as it moves and transitions through the sounds of so many artists and times in a way that showcases the emotional ebb and flow that makes this effort such a standout to me. It shows an attention to detail and a profound sense of musical maturity that only reinforces my earliest of notions: that these guys were really on their way to being something special. It further solidifies the presence of new, rich and compelling soul music that pulls from the roots but does so with a modern panache that has created some truly remarkable music from an act that I very much am looking forward to hearing more from.
Sea of Noise is produced on the RECORDS Label is available at your local record store, Play Store and iTunes and at stpaulandthebrokenbones.com
Something Is Happening Here…
Well, technically something HAS HAPPENED here and now it’s time to tell you who WON!!!
JMLC Pet Sounds Giveaway!
A huge thank you to all the groovy folk who participated in the JMLC Pet Sounds Giveaway! Glad to know that so many of you are still rockin’ and rollin’ out there with me after almost two whole years now! Thanks so much for taking the time to grab each new issue of The Jam and seeing what’s going down in “Justin Morris’ Lake Charles.” I really do appreciate you all!
SO… In case you missed it, our Beach Boys Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Giveaway offered up a Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Mono Vinyl Repressing (courtesy of the groovy dudes at The Round About) and a hardbound copy of the brand new Brian Wilson memoir I Am Brian Wilson (courtesy of De Capo Press) to one lucky reader who knew the correct answer to the following question:
“While Brian Wilson did use the legendary ‘Wrecking Crew’ to provide his orchestra for this record, he brought in some other studio musicians, including one artist who as of today has released 70 albums under their own name, netted numerous Grammy awards and charted over 80 times, and is credited with offering guitar and/or banjo tracks to 5 of the 15 tracks on Pet Sounds. Who is this artist?”
The answer is Glen Campbell, who not only guested on Pet Sounds but even toured with the boys on occasion after Brian left the road. Our BIG WINNER is Taylor G of Lake Charles! Congratulations, Taylor!
Oh, But I Wanna Feel Something Real…
Thanks again to everyone who sent in their emails for a chance to win! Stay with me here and I’m certain that we’ll be doing it again soon! Also thanks to Kevin Lambert and Eric Daigle at The Round About and to De Capo Press for their support of JMLC. I appreciate you all greatly! Let’s do it again, sometime!
That’s going to wrap up yet another JMLC. Check us out again in two weeks for our FINAL ISSUE of 2016! Until then….. I will SEE YOU AT THE SHOW!!!