Brother, can I get an “amen”? Amen! That’s the sentiment the listener gets after hearing Alabama based sextet St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Influenced by the church, specifically the black gospel tradition in addition to vintage soul, debut album Half the City is a legit soul LP in 2014. Soul and the year 2014 seem an unlikely pairing, particularly with the heavy reliance of electronic instruments and autotune, but the relationship proves to be one that’s “Simply Beautiful” as Al Green would put it. St. Paul (aka Paul Janeway) leads the charge of the soul-band, delivering truly amazing, gut-wrenching vocal performances. Unafraid to get “down and dirty” with it, Janeway’s Pentecostal influence coupled with a love for James Brown, translates nearly perfectly on Half the City.
Ultimately, Half the City is a captivating, exceptional soul album. In a day and age where authenticity is questioned, St. Paul and the Broken Bones smash any doubts. Half the City is not an innovative affair, but given its retro-tinge, it doesn’t need to be. By all means, the goal of keeping “soul” alive and flourishing is easily accomplished here.