SXSW Live Shot: St. Paul & the Broken Bones

Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and now Paul Janeway

Obviously, it’s in their blood. A group of seven young men from the Birmingham/Muscle Shoals area of Alabama, St. Paul & the Broken Bones neither recreate or imitate. The soul music they make feels good and it’s very real. Dubbed St. Paul due to his background singing gospel, frontman Paul Janeway surprises almost every time he opens his mouth.

Photo by Jana Birchum

His horn-rimmed glasses and doughy complexion give way to a voice that’s unbelievably agile moving from overpowering to tender and back in a manner that recalls Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, and other soul singers of that ilk from the Sixties. The Broken Bones back him with their own electricity.

They drew a majority of the nine-song set from just issued debut LP, Half the City, produced by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes. Beginning with a horn-filled workout in the style of Memphis greats the Bar-Kays, Janeway soon had jaws on the ground. The band laid out an undeniable swing to match his testifying on “Don’t Mean A Thing.”

They did the slow build and release Otis was known for with sly ease on “Dixie Rothko” and ended with a sweat-drenched Janeway pleading for mercy on “Grass is Greener.” It was too crowded both onstage and in front of the stage for any real dancing, but the spirits of all involved were undoubtedly moved nonetheless.

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St. Paul & the Broken Bones, SXSW Music 2014, Paul Janeway, Otis Redding, Bar-Kays, Wilson Pickett

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