Most of us who love music had someone or ones when we were young who guided us to good music. I had several, including my cousin Janet and her husband Phil whose love of artists like the Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones, as well as their enjoyment of trolling record stores rubbed off on me. There were also several Christmas gifts like a Phoebe Snow tape that wasn’t on my wish list but expanded my tastes.
So when my Alabama cousin emailed me a few months ago that there was this band St. Paul and the Broken Bones that was getting a lot of attention down there, I had to look them up. Of course, Cousin Janet was right on.
The first thing you’ll notice is lead singer Paul Janeway’s exceptional, full soul voice. Through virtually every track, he is there to testify, even in songs like Call Me, that start out fairly cool. Broken Bones & Pocket Change brilliantly builds out of a waltzing rhythm into a torrid chorus, Janeway wailing, “Broken bones and pocket change, that’s all that she left me!” The last time we heard blue-eyed soul this arresting was Brit Mick Hucknall’s work as Simply Red, though Janeway and his bandmates bring it with more Southern grit.
Next thing you’ll notice is the band, effortlessly moving from the drawl of The Glow, the staccato chorus of Broken Bones to the rousing Sugar Dyed. Allen Branstetter’s sound is the latest thing to persuade me there’s just not enough trumpet in pop music today.
Half the City presents a fully formed band in its debut, and I feel like I was just a little bit ahead of the curve thanks to one of my earliest tastemakers.