Out of Birmingham, Alabama, St Paul and The Broken Bones have been garnering popularity since they were formed in 2011. Lead by the stirring vocals of Paul Janeway, the sextet consists of Browan Lollar (Guitar, Vocals), Andrew Lee (Drums and Percussion), Jesse Phillips (Bass), Allen Branstetter (Trumpet), and Ben Griner (Trombone and tuba). The group self released a debut full-length album, signed with Single Lock Records and released their debut Album ‘Half the City’ earlier this year. The boys are currently at no. 3 in the US iTunes chart and have been nominated for emerging act of the year 2014 from the Americana Music associations honours and awards.
These guys are now my favourite. Completely. Utterly my favourite. With an equally stirring mix of smooth soul and raucous gospel, the track vibes like a late summer evening hanging out on a rooftop with a bottle of something and plenty of ice; while the sunsets sending everything into that warm burnt orange glow. Janeway’s vocals are impassioned, blazing energy that brings comparisons to Marvin Gaye and James Brown. His ringing higher ranges are reminiscent of contemporaries like Plan B’ – ‘She Said’ and the smooth swing of Ray Lamontagne – ‘You are the best thing’. Though Janeway’s vocal tends toward a little edged off shouting, it keeps the power. Alongside this the impressive vocal improvisation up and down the melody keeps things fresh and helps keep your ears from falling asleep.
The whole track (indeed the album – which is definitely worth a listen) is soul funk gospel edged rnb. Fast paced with a lively grooving backbeat and rhythm, that drives the track along accompanied (sandwiched in on either side) by Lee’s heavy drum/percussion and the heavy yet melodic rhythms of Phillips’ bass and Lollar’s electric guitar. This doesn’t mean that Griner and Branstetter’s horn section is forgotten. Quite the opposite, the horn section gives the track it’s ‘soul’, marching the track along like its mardi gras, loud maybe slightly brash but not overpowering.
The level of arrangement and use of instruments (even a tambourine setting the pace at odd intervals is really effective) this gives the whole thing a classic and distinctive feel of the sound of Mowtown, a slick, well put together, well arranged, feel. One with a whole lot of heart, and one that gives a ‘voice’ to a ‘feeling’/a story/a situation. Never mind that ‘Call Me’ is definitely a summer single – their entire album deserves a thorough listening to ( don’t stop at that check out their live sets, listen to ‘Sugar Dyed’ and ‘That Glow’ ( that song hits right in the feels).
Verdict: St Paul and the Broken Bones are a group of tight knit, talented smooth operators who know how to hit home with the right amount of power, emphasis, musicality and a whole lot of James Brown. This weeks iTunes single is a good segeway into the brilliance of the group and does not disappoint. A wonderful listen.
They’re playing London on the 20th – 21st May, don’t miss out!