Monday, 15 November 2010

After recently buying a 'proper' turntable, I've been heavily biased towards vinyl - both listening to long-cherished, long-owned albums as well as buying new releases on wax in preference to CDs. This trend was bucked last weekend at a record fair in Brighton, when I chanced across a CD copy of 'Flubber', the second album by Souled American. Had the vinyl for yonks, and the 1999 CD reissue, but finding the original CD caused an audible gasp - the kind that makes a stall-holder wish they'd stuck a £10 price tag on a disc rather than the quid or so it cost me. Thus, a marathon Souled American session has ensued. Whenever this happens, I end up telling everyone I speak to - and reminding those I told last time I was 'under the influence' - just how incredible this band is.

They released six albums (four on Rough Trade, two on German label, Moll); the first ‘Fe’ in1988, two years before Uncle Tupelo put out a record and six years before The Jayhawks broke through with ‘Hollywood Town Hall’. So, yes, you may never have heard of them but they were truly ground-breaking. Soporific and swampy, slow and sweet, with each record they became progressively slower and more intense – a classic example of ‘less is more’. Jim Becker of Califone (and sometimes Souled American) once characterised them to me as getting more stoned with each record, to the point were now they can’t get off the sofa: in fact, Califone are a good indication of a band developing what SA started (both produced by Brian Deck). I should add that the band haven't officially packed it in, but new material is no more than a trickle (one original song since 1997). This has perhaps served only to increase their myth, as the tributes build up - John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats wrote a glowing piece for Harp magazine (although it is no longer available online) claiming them one of very few bands he would write for or whose songs he would cover.

It’s often claimed that humans only use 10% of their brain: people who make such claims have probably never listened to Souled American, I think if you can find ‘Fe’, ‘Flubber’, ‘Around The Horn’, ‘Sonny’ (all these re-released by American indie label Tumult in 1999), ‘Frozen’ or ‘Notes Campfire’, you’re looking at alt-country’s answer to latter-day Talk Talk or what might have happened had Michael Hurley joined Meat Puppets. Buy them.

Souled American: In The Mud:

More reading:
Tumult re-issues:
Tiny Mix Tapes:
Totally Wired blog (no relation!):
History Of Rock:
Village Voice:
Fifty Poster About Souled American, an art project:

PS The next Brighton record fair will take place at Komedia at the end of January; thereafter at the Brighton Centre (bigger) in March, I think...

Gilded Palace Radio Show playlist - 'til November 27th 2010:

1) Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3 - Resolution - Blue Rose
2) Willard Grant Conspiracy - Another Man Gone - Loose
3) Caitlin Rose - For The Rabbits - Names
4) Adrian Nation - Set Fire To The Sky - Laburnam Bridge
5) Alexander Wolfe - Til Your Ship Comes In - Dharma Records
6) Mumblin' Deaf Ro - The Drowning Man - Road Records
7) Ben Weaver - East Jefferson - Bloodshot
8) Devon Sproule - Steady & True (Matty Charles song) - Tin Angel
9) Matt Urmy - Sweet Lonesome -
10) Stephen Simmons - Dangerous Days For Dreamers -
11) Stephen Simmons - Empty Belly Blues No 32 -
12) Eric Brace & Peter Cooper - I Wish We Had Our Time Again (John Hartford song) - Red Beet
13) The Sadies - Postcards - Yep Roc (on tour Nov/Dec: Brighton 9th Dec.)
14) Salter Cane - The Truth Is Nothing -
15) Treecreeper - Last Days - Trash Aesthetics
16) Hayes Carll - Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness -
17) Souled American - Torch Singer - Rough Trade/Tumult
18) Laura Cantrell - Sam Stone - Barsuk
19) Zoe Muth - Middle Of Nowhere -
20) Po Girl - Pink Shoes - Po Girl Music
21) Charlie Roth - If We Keep Kissin' - Sun Drop
22) The Blue Hearts - Jukebox Of Maladies - Big Cactus
23) Two Cow Garage - Sweet Saint Me - Suburban Home
24) Redlands Palomino Company - Coastline - Laughing Outlaw


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