St. Paul and the Broken Bones: Half the City

Posted February 24, 2014 by in Rock



3.5/ 5


Genre: ,
Genre: Rock, Soul
Producer: Ben Tanner
Label: Single Lock Records
Format: Digital download, compact disc, vinyl
Time: 39:05
Release Date: 18 February 2014
Spin This: "I'm Torn Up," "Call Me," "Half the City," "Sugar Dyed"


Frontman Jane Janeway is a wrecking ball of a soul singer and easily captures the passion of Otis Redding; decent songwriting and skillful musicianship create memorable events on debut disc


Not enough uptempo fireworks; songs seem to be a bit heavy on experimental, jazzy rock episodes that stray away from the crossover soul they should be embarking

Half the City comes with lots of rock and soul

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Half the City comes with lots of rock and soul

Following in the almost exact same footsteps of Athens, Ala. band Alabama Shakes, St. Paul and the Broken Bones – led by gospel-trained frontman Paul Janeway – are hoping to become the next big band to come out of Sweet Home Alabama since Lynyrd Skynyrd (LS came out of Florida). Already building a name for themselves after countless gigs in their cross-country expeditions, the Birmingham based band have whipped up a nostalgic style that flows in lines with Muscle Shoals soul and combustible Stax workouts. To top it off, there’s plenty of ample horns, old-school revival hooks and Sunday morning spunk headlining their road shows. They stay true to character on their highly-anticipated debut album, Half the City.

Out front on the twelve-track set produced by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes fame is the rambunctious Janeway, sporting a pair of vocal cords that genetically combine the guts of James Brown and the fervor of Janis Joplin. Groomed in a steep Pentecostal tradition, Janeway’s routine in the live show is usually untamed and barbarically savage, but he tapers down just a tad bit on Half the City to make room for the Dap King-influenced horn section and for the retro grooves to percolate some. “I’m Torn Up” whines like Al Green as he sings “Hello sweetheart/How’s love going nowadays” right before he asks the burning question: “Did you find that true love, that one that will make you stay?” Further into the episode, Janeway lets loose and bolts into a raging, unspeakable rant full of unresolved bitterness. And it is that back and forth Bruce Banner/Hulk transformations that easily gives off the impression that he’s a lost son of Otis Redding. When Janeway sings “I need, I need, I need…you baby” on the jazz-rock-soul fusion of “Call Me,” he proves to be an unbridled force chasing the strident fervor of classic soul nostalgia. Then he exercises a sustained croon that works perfectly against the Browan Lollar’s guitar strums and the adoring brass of Allen Branstetter and Ben Griner.

Together, Janeway and his Broken Bones sew a collection of tunes that hardly bear the polish of Motown pop seasoning. This isn’t exactly instant coffee. Instead you’re transported into a realm of soul music that sounds like it’s been assembled by a Southern garage band, where it allows each player to become the star when necessary. What you’re hearing is a glorious mix of Otis Redding and Al Green. Much of the offerings are melodic slow burners that matriculate after the first minute or so into the song, then Janeway brings on the fire-and-brimstone testifying. There are a few catchy hooks and rapturous melodies embedded in the mix, particularly on “Call Me” and “Half the City.”  Unfortunately it’s not enough to warrant a spot in today’s crossover soul, especially since the spirit of entrancing rock reigns heavily on slow burners like “Grass Is Greener” and “Broken Bones & Pocket Change.” But Half the City is still a decent platter for the freshman band. It’s fiery and thoroughly interesting. The lyricism is pretty good, while the character of the band’s performance seems to be the album’s winning hand. But more uptempo tracks like the Stax-peppered “Sugar Dyed” would have provided the disc with a fairer balance. There’s far less of that kind of fancy footwork and excitement offered here. Still the disc is a heck lot crisper and refined than Alabama Shakes’ inflated debut, Boys & Girls.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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