What I love most about soul music is how versatile it is. It can get people up on their feet, it can make powerful statements, it can tell a love story, and everything in-between. I think this is because its roots run deep with the influences of gospel and rhythm and blues. That, and there are varying genres of soul that further broaden its scope. Now, I know you might be thinking of the kings and queens of soul as you read this (Nina Simone, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, etc.), but they won’t be the focus of today’s post. What I want to do today is introduce you to some contemporary artists who I’m loving and who, in my opinion, embody all the wonderful facets of the genre.
1) The War and Treaty
I recently discovered this powerhouse duo and their music is the kind that will leave you with goosebumps along your arms. From funky bass lines to stripped down percussion to passionate vocals, Michael and Tanya Trotter deliver passionate performances that resonate with audiences on a personal level. They also have a wonderfully inspiring story about the different roads they had to take before finding one another.
2) Leon Bridges
Fort Worth, Texas native Leon Bridges has a voice and style that can’t be ignored. Bridges is another artist who captures the perfect soul style of the 60s and brings it alive for today’s audience in a unique way. His first album, Coming Home, was released by Columbia Records on June 23, 2015. Since then he has been nominated for two Grammys and released his second album, Good Thing, in May 2018.
3) St. Paul and the Broken Bones
Birmingham, Alabama’s St. Paul and the Broken Bones is a tight ensemble with a gospel-tinged, retro-soul sound. That, combined with frontman Paul Janeway’s dynamic vocals, has garnered them an ever-growing fan base since they began performing publicly in 2012. Since their recording debut in 2014 with Half the City, St. Paul and the Broken Bones have expanded their sound and delved into more socially conscious and personal material. Their latest album, Young Sick Camellia, was released in 2018.
4) Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
At first listen, you’d think Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings stepped straight out of the 1960s. The Brooklyn based soul and funk band moved audiences for over a decade, with lead singer Sharon Jones singing with unshakable certainty perfectly complimented by the explosive pulsing rhythms of her Dap-Kings. Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2013 but continued to perform as often as her schedule would permit. In 2015, Jones revealed that her cancer returned but she continued to fight until she passed in November 2016. Shortly before her death, Jones completed the vocals on her final album with the Dap-Kings. Soul of a Woman. It was released in 2017.
5) Earl St. Clair
I only recently discovered Earl St. Clair and haven’t been disappointed. His bluesy voice and classic Southern soul and gospel style channels the likes of Al Green and Ray Charles while reflecting tinges of contemporary rap, hop, and dance music. St. Clair released his debut EP, My Name is Earl, in 2017.