Fifty-two years after the birth of soul music, the term is still elastic. As a fan, I don't care all that much about "Northern Soul," for example, the more pop-oriented music that often came out of places like Motown and was embraced by the British dance scene. I like Southern soul, deep Southern soul, with its waltz times and still-dangling church roots. For partisans like me, the grail is Muscle Shoals, Ala., where the Fame studios were, where Arthur Alexander cut "Anna" in 1962 and the sublime (and some hits) kept coming.
So when I heard St. Paul & The Broken Bones on NPR a few weeks ago, and loved their soul sound; and heard the band was coming to Colorado; and discovered they'd recorded their recently released debut album at Muscle Shoals ... I figured I might have a few things to talk about with lead singer Paul Janeway (here), like about how country and soul music were cross-pollinating in their golden ages, and about how far you can get with soul music today.
Janeway's publicist warned me he could only speak for 10 to 15 minutes. My job was to make him want to go longer. I knew it was going to be smooth sailing as soon as we started talking about Otis Redding and discovered we both treasure some of Redding's least-known songs. When it comes to deep Southern soul, that guy's as far gone as I am.
The difference is, I just listen. He can sing.