Album Review: Sea of Noise by St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Very Good, Based on 4 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Since their breakthrough debut, Half the City, brass-reinforced retro-soul ensemble St. Paul & the Broken Bones grew to an eight-piece with the addition of a keyboardist and a woodwinds specialist, and signed with a new label (RECORDS). They also looked to somewhat reel in lead singer Paul Janeway's emphatic soul delivery. Not that there was any technical fault to be found with his impassioned performances on Half the City, but having been quite new to professional singing at the time it was recorded -- live in the studio, with the pressure on -- he soon learned to embrace concepts like balance and nuance.
From the late ‘50s through the early ‘70s—before hip hop and more modern mutations of basic rhythm & blues came around—that essential American musical style known as soul music was the common language of America’s youth. While its origins were borne from the black experience specifically, its sound proved the counterpoint to the then-upstart insurgence of rock ‘n’ roll, which like soul music, was an offshoot of R&B, but decidedly more rebellious in its intent. Motown and Stax provided the fertile testing grounds, but it was soul’s universal appeal, its communal bond and common sense of celebration that allowed it to quickly overcome the racial divide of the civil rights struggle and become an institution appreciated by young people regardless of race, culture, or, for that matter, national origin.
From Frank Ocean to Blood Orange, we're in a golden age of expansive R&B – meaning the bar is high, even for old-school revivalists like Alabama's St. Paul and the Broken Bones. So it's gratifying to hear them step up their vision on their second LP. "We're just crumbling light . . . in a sea of ….
There's a full-blown soul revival sweeping music, and not just what gets issued by Daptone Records. Primed for a double bill with fellow ACL Festers and Stax signees Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, this Birmingham, Ala., sixpiece followed up 2014 debut Half the City with this month's Sea of Noise, releasing a trio of singles in between, including August's gospel-tinged "Is It Me?" dripping with Pops Staples-like tremolo guitar and the Stevie Wonder-ish delight "All I Ever Wonder." Possessing stabbing horns and Paul Janeway's honeyed pipes, this St. Paul can heal anyone and anything.