I love soul music in each and every one of its glorious permutations, so it’s been gratifying for me to listen as a new generation of soul masters has taken the spotlight in the last few years. For me it seemed to start with that first Joss Stone album, but then she seemed to lose the thread as she moved forward. Into her place stepped artists like Sharon Jones, Ryan Shaw, and Eli “Paperboy” Reed, among others. Meanwhile, the great Al Green kept the fire burning, and Raphael Saadiq provided a new soundtrack for the soul revolution. For years I feared that soul music as I knew it was dead, only to have it come roaring back to life.
Let’s define terms. Soul music doesn’t employ auto-tuned vocals, electronic beats, or sampled music. It’s played by real singers backed by live bands. It’s not hip-hop, it’s not rap, and it’s not rock. It’s not black, and it’s not white. It’s whatever it is that Marvin Gaye, or the Temptations, or Otis Redding had, and Aretha Franklin still has.
Imagine someone gave you the opportunity to create the ultimate soul band. First, you’d get a great singer like Tre Williams, a guy who will remind you of David Ruffin without remotely copping his style. It’s something about that gravel in the throat. Then you have to be sure to have a great songwriter and backup singer like Rell to write the songs and sing them with Williams. Of course you’d need a band, and you’d get someone like Wes Mingus on guitar, and keyboard player Borahm Lee. You’re going to need a great rhythm section, and bassist Josh Werner, and drummer Gintas Janusonis fill that bill.
So now that you’ve got your singers, and you’ve got your band, what’s it going to sound like? Well suppose you could create an amalgam of Motown propulsion, the rawness of Stax, and just a touch of the balladry magic of Gamble and Huff‘s Philadelphia International sound? That would be the ultimate, wouldn’t it?
The results of this brew, the seven-track Deep Soul ep, is just about as perfect as it gets. When it’s over you want more, even as you’re astonished by just how right the Revelations got it. But since you don’t want it to end, they give it to you, in the form of instrumental versions of the seven tracks. Think that’s redundant and you don’t need to hear them? Just wait.
While this ep will remind you of another era, there’s nothing retro about it. This is forward looking contemporary music. The Brooklyn-based Revelations featuring Tre Williams have created something rare that needs to be nurtured so that it can thrive. Tell everyone you know – this is a new soul classic for our time.