This week’s entrant in the soul revival sweepstakes is Boston’s own Eli “Paperboy” Reed, who along with his band The True Loves, has a new album called Roll With You (QDivision Records). Here we have an honest-to-goodness show band, complete with horns, in the tradition of ’60s legends The Magnificent Men, or somewhat more recently, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
There are dangers inherent in pursuing this genre. You could be seen as a slavish imitator, or worse yet, a parodist of the form. The Blues Brothers only escaped universal scorn because two true soul music veterans, Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn, were part of their band, and Belushi and Aykroyd were well known as comedians. Besides, they claimed that they were bringing a new audience to the blues. That was their rationale, anyway. I wonder how many of those Blues Brothers fans actually went back and listened to the pioneers of the music.
But analysis is almost beside the point, because what Eli Reed & The True Loves have delivered is a terrific Saturday night party album. To delve too deeply into the whys and wherefores would take all the fun out of it, and this music is all about fun.
Eli Reed has insured his credibility by making a commitment. He’s done his homework. At the tender age of 18, he moved from his home in Brookline, MA to the birthplace of the blues, Clarksdale, MS. There he spent nine months playing tough, demanding venues with local artists. Then he followed the same road that the blues took north when he enrolled for a year at the University of Chicago, where he got a job playing piano and singing in a church on the South Side. In 2004, after a year of school, he returned to the Boston area and assembled The True Loves. The buzz about their live shows is nearly deafening, as they bring a punk-like energy to the stage.
At the age of 24, Reed is already an astonishing R&B singer, who can only get better. Listen as he brings to mind greats like Joe Tex and Wilson Pickett on “Take My Love With You,” and Ben E. King and Sam Cooke on “I’ll Roll With You.” The breakdown that leads to the trumpet solo on the latter is one of my favorite moments in recent music.
Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True Loves will be playing all over the U.S. this summer, with a stop at the Ottawa Bluesfest as well. I know I’m looking forward to seeing them when they roll through Jersey next week.