Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Album Review: St. Paul & The Broken Bones- Half The City

St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Half The City
***and1/2 out of *****
A new entry into the Retro-Soul movement is the Birmingham, Alabama based sextet St. Paul & The Broken Bones. Like others before them the group harkens back to the sound of Stax Records-Muscle Shoals recording artists from the early 60's going for smooth sounds and grooves that recall vinyl spinning days while injecting their our brand of gospel to the mix.

The music contained on Half The City is solid in this regard but what brought the band to national attention wasn't their sound, but their look and sound of their front-man. When the record spins you can hear a band that is fluid if not drum tight, but the voice of its lead singer leaps off of the record as Paul Janeway's vocals rival any singer in this genre, especially on their first release, from any era of soul music. Seriously.

The interesting thing is that voice is coming from someone who looks like a mix of Craig Finn from The Hold Steady and the last kid drafted for kickball in grade school. Janeway's vocals are the obvious draw and it makes clear that band will have commercial/I-gotta-see-this appeal. The producer behind this disk also draws parallels as Ben Tanner from the Alabama Shakes helps out, he being from another group with a dominate singer (in their case Brittany Howard) who dabble near this genre.

The songs on Half The City are secondary to Janeway's pipes but a few hit home like opener "I'm Torn Up" with it's creeping horns, easy guitar and tale of love lost. It encompasses what the group does best, slow, simmering songs are their strength; for example "Broken Bones & Pocket Change" works better then the up beat "Sugar Dyed".

When the band tries to pick up the pace things can get a bit clunky, a track like "Call Me" seems to be still trying to find the footing between the soaring singing and upbeat instruments, but the slow climaxing jams that focus around the singing are impossible to deny. The album climaxes with closer "It's Midnight" which oozes its brass charm over B3 organ fills, delicately ending the groups first disk with a gospel/soul buttoning.

Janeway was planning on becoming a preacher until he found more secular music in his late teens, he mentions his debt to the church and staying away from secular music at a young age. With pipes like his this will be just he first step in the St. Paul & The Broken Bones journey.
Support the band here, buy the album here and peep some video below:
"I'm Torn Up"

"Call Me"

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