In the 20thcentury our southern states have graciously gifted us some of our most soulful singers; Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. Now, the 21st Century has given us St. Paul and The Broken Bones from Birmingham, Alabama. If Elton John and Otis Redding had a baby this would be their love child. On the night of June 25, 2019 I had the opportunity to see them at Sweetland Amphitheatre in LaGrange, GA where they reminded everyone what real soul music is.
St. Paul and The Broken Bones is an eight-piece band that formed in 2012. The band is composed of Paul Janeway (vocals), Browan Lollar (guitar), Jesse Phillips (bass), Kevin Leon (drums), Al Gamble (keys), Allen Branstetter (trumpet), Amari Ansari (saxophone), and Chad Fisher (trombone). Blue lights lit up the stage as the band walked out, picked up their instruments and started the intro for “LivWithoutU” and Paul Janeway walked onto the stage in a floor length black, sparkly coat, began to sing and filled the hot summer night with the ghosts of the founders of soul.
Throughout the set Paul Janeway showed off his impeccable dance moves, cutting a rug during the solos. I mean how could this music make you not want to get up and boogie? They slowed it down with their fifth song “Grass Ain’t Greener,” which happens to be the first song I ever heard by them. Paul’s vocals on this song shoots chills up my body every time I hear it, this time being no exception. In my opinion, that’s how you know you’ve found good music. The band hypnotized us with the music while the vocals weaved its way through the audience, taking each of us on a transcendental journey.
Most bands perform an encore song but luckily for us, we got three. They closed the show with Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” The energy during this performance was so powerful I wonder if Mr. Redding’s presence was floating around on that hot Georgia night. The whole dynamic of this band is impressive, to the horns that added that extra flair, the guitar that seemed to be operated by a magical being, the bass that never missed a deep beat, the animal behind the drums that put everything he had into the skins, and the vocalist who melted us like butter into our seats with his bluesy voice. This is a band who I hope is around for years to spread the blues and soul to the younger generations, helping to keep the music of their predecessors alive and on the tips of our tongue. St. Paul and The Broken Bones show us that good music isn’t gone and that the music of past generations still echoes in our hearts and souls, never really leaving us. Each blues and soul singer blazed a trail for people to follow, with small detours, but each trail ultimately ends up at the same point on the trail and that point is the love and admiration for the music.
“Soul ain’t nothing but a feeling.” – Wilson Pickett