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St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Young Sick Camellia

November 13, 2018

I saw St. Paul & The Broken Bones live when they were blossoming a few years ago. I was smitten. But I was worried about their longevity:

  • Were they just a retro-soul novelty act?
  • Would vocalist Paul Janeway blowout his pipes?
  • As a wise man once said to my son when he was managing a band: “that’s a lot of mouths to feed boy”

But the band has endured. They have passed the five-year mark.

I was into the first album, but it was the live show I saw that hooked me. That live show was better than the LP. You could see the spark in that first LP. I never really listened to their second album. Bought it, just did not give it an attentive listen. We have tickets to see them live next March, so I figured I needed to get hip to LP number three.

Young Sick Camellia is a doozy. Full on 70s soul, before disco broke soul’s soul. Thank god for hip hop restarting the soul progression, but I digress. This has got it all: Al Green/Memphis, Boz Scaggs, Philly Soul, Curtis Mayfield, a little EWF (damn I love soul horns), even a little bit of Robert Plant, but it still has a modernist twist, I dig it.

  • Paul Janeway has learned nuance, no he has mastered it. I appreciate that Janeway has toned down the vocal histrionics. He has an absolutely amazing voice. He has a once in a generation kind of voices. I love how his voice has improved and has become more varied since the debut. This guy should be bigger.
  • The band’s ambition has grown. This is a well planned and executed album. It is an album and not just a bunch of songs. The album explores what it means to be an artsy kid in a redneck world. This is an album that rewards with each successive listen. It is completely approachable on the first spin, but there is enough depth that each listen reveals new surprises. You can focus on Janeway’s voice, the band, the arrangements or the recording – all are rich and rewarding. This is like a complex barrel aged beer – each sip reveals a slightly different flavor.
  • Per their website:

Assigning himself the image of a camellia, the Alabama state flower, Janeway uses his lyrics as a conduit for interpersonal conversation and excision, in addition to pieces of an actual conversation with his grandfather he recorded months before his unexpected death. “I wanted to explore the dynamics and their views on life,” Janeway says. “It’s an extremely personal record—not that I haven’t written personal records before, but this is more in-depth and with a vulnerability that I was maybe scared to try. But you have to have that exposure. I think we’re in a much better place than we’ve ever been as a band. We weren’t totally confident with the ‘retro soul’ label that was thrust on us and we knew we had to explore more ground. Young Sick Camellia is the first record we’ve done that just felt right all the way through, like we’re doing us. Nothing was rushed and everything has intent.”

St. Paul & The Broken Bones have transcended the novelty act of their first album and they are the real deal – a band with a vision and the chops to pull it off. I look forward to witnessing these songs live.

https://open.spotify.com/album/4EN9bVE0g7gUvQlNdPrUhL?si=MkpyJ-hmQK2me3tH749asA

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