St. Paul & The Broken Bones - Half The City

by Hiro Master Rating:8.5 Release Date:2014-05-12

They say if you wait long enough for a bus two will come along; this maxim now appears to apply to American soul bands. The emergence last year of the Alabama Shakes and their mighty lead singer Brittany Howard as a veritable force of nature brought real cheer to those who like their music soulfully stirred and infused with Muscle Shoals devout passion. The owners of Single Lock Records sit in this tradition including owners John Paul White of the now defunct Civil Wars and Ben Tanner of said Alabama Shakes. In signing St Paul & The Broken Bones it must have felt that Christmas came early.

The band hail from Alabama and its six members come fully formed and schooled in the best traditions of the music of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, O V Wright and Al Green. The band however are not revivalists for like the Shakes they are regenerators breathing new life into a timeless tradition that should ever so frequently bang on our doors and demand substantial quality time on the stereo. The lead singer of the band is another surprise package. Indeed Paul Janeway might do for soul what Paul Potts did for opera. He is an unlikely frontman, looking like a mix of Huey Long and Bill Gates yet singing like his black soul heroes with a voice which he should insure for millions. He is a star in the making and once you have heard that voice you are going to return time after time. Half the City is the band's debut and it tops Boy and Girls by the Alabama Shakes in terms of consistency, sheer joie de vivre and deep down desire.

Play this album to any musical acquaintance and the first astonished words uttered will be “Who the fuck are they?” Check out Janeway’s vocal on 'Like a Mighty River' with its superb horn backdrop and powerhouse chords and try not to be impressed. This is a vocalist who was trained in the gospel tradition at his local Pentecostalist Church and doesn't it show? Their live standard 'Call Me' floats along with an effortless soul groove that could only be the product of a veteran band who have played thousands of clubs to be this tight and together. Undoubtedly this will be the case as St Paul and the Broken Bones storm every venue they currently play but we would do well not to forget that some of these musicians are straight out of college.

The high voltage soul on Half the City is relentless. Echoes of Otis Redding abound on the slow emotional ballad 'Broken Bones & Pocket Change' an absolute showstopper of a song. It is matched by the wonderful closer 'It's Midnight', all dark and burning with passionate intensity. For a bit of lighter relief turn to the funky title track and the almost Dexys sounding 'Dixie Rothko' with a huge Janeway vocal. Overall this is an album which wears its heart on its sleeve, it wants to entertain, to pull at your emotions and to make you punch the air. It is a soul debut to die for and makers of polyvinyl chloride had better stock up because 'Half the City' is going to exhaust their supplies when it hits the shops.  

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