St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Half the City [Review]

first_imgThe Commitments put it best when they said: “Try a little tenderness.” Finding balance between gusto and restraint is what makes great bands great; in the case of soul, the balance must be between emotional sincerity and practical implementation. Half The City, the debut album from St. Paul & The Broken Bones from Birmingham, AL, packs a huge wallop of old-school soul into 12 impeccably-written songs worthy of partying til sunup. Lead vocalist Paul Janeway singlehandedly carries the banner of decades of soul with his impassioned, timeless voice. From the opening riffs of “I’m Torn Up” it is clear that you’re headed into serious waters.Many bands have tried to sustain the power of soul music done right, but few achieve the balance of heavy and light that St. Paul & The Broken Bones have. Some moments are so good, it’s instinctual: they find melodies that make your ear need to hear it go a certain way – they tease you with the briefest of instrumental interludes – and they give you exactly what you want, better than you imagined it yourself, with Janeway delivering more than you think he could, every time. The Broken Bones are a fearsome band, as tight as they need to be to balance a busy horn section with slinky guitar riffs and an impeccable sense of timing and space that allows them to work around and through Janeway’s signature howl, lifting him up to build a vertiable tower of soul.Half The City is also perfectly sequenced. The self-referential power ballad “Broken Bones & Pocket Change” lingers on the edge of feeling before leaping into insatiable groove-rocker “Sugar Dyed” in a seamless emotional transition. There’s never a change too abrupt; it’s as organic a record as one could ask for in an age of sterilized singles. Each track is a winner, fit for both radio play and fierce dance halls.The band is checking off all the right boxes on the path to soul greatness, recording their fiery debut at the legendary Fame Studios in Alabama, instrumental in forming the famous “Muscle Shoals sound” that spread like wildfire throughout the late 60s and 70s. They recruited brilliant and prolific session musician Al Gamble on keys for their record. Half The City was produced by Ben Tanner of the Alabama Shakes, and released on Single Lock Records, owned by John Paul White of folk-soul wizards The Civil Wars.Most importantly, when all is said and done, it’s a highly groovy record. Sam Cooke himself would be proud of the Southern soul that they’ve been brewing. In a time when the traditions of established music are being constantly redefined by contemporary artists, St. Paul & The Broken Bones serve to keep the original purity of soul music as fresh and strong as it was in its heyday.Watch St. Paul & The Broken Bones perform the title track from Half The City live, below:Half The City is available on iTunes.-Asher Meerovich (@Bummertime)last_img