Saturday, February 16, 2008

Roll With You reviewed by Mark Thompson

Roll With You
Eli “Paperboy” Reed & the True Loves
Q-Dee Records
11 tracks/38:03

Eli is a young man with a deep love for real soul music, the kind that harkens back to my younger days when James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and King Solomon Burke could be heard on the radio all day long. At the age of eighteen, he moved from Massachusetts to Clarksdale, MS where he buried himself in the live music scene, particularly blues. Then he moved to Chicago where he played gospel piano in a south-side church while attending school. After a year, Reed decided to return to the East coast and began to form his band.

On his second release, Reed brilliantly captures the spirit of soul music without resorting to a slavish copying of styles. Discerning listeners can gleam hints of his influences on these eleven original tunes. But each track serves as a testament Reed’s songwriting skill. Even more impressive is the amazing vocal prowess he displays throughout the disc. Eli can easily glide up into the falsetto range or drop down in tone while adding a gritty edge to his voice. And he can unleash a spine-tingling soul scream with an unforced, natural ease that is remarkable for a younger singer. He gets fine support from the True Loves, including a three-piece horn section.

“Stake Your Claim” opens the disc with a slinky guitar riff and the horns blasting behind Reed’s impassioned vocal plea for commitment from the woman he loves. The band ratchets up the tempo even further on a storming romp through “Take My Love With You”. Eli’s voice has no trouble matching the band’s intensity – and exhibits restraint by not straining his voice by pushing it too far.

The title cut opens with a deep bass line as this ballad slowly builds in intensity. Reed is supported by a doo-wop harmony vocal. The next track, “She Walks”, is another ballad that has Eli singing sweet and soulful until he can’t contain himself any longer and he shouts for his baby to come home. The band takes a detour down the funky broadway on “The Satisfier” and “I’m Gonna Getcha Back”. Reed even makes a bid to start his own dance craze on “(Doing the) Boom Boom”. The horns wail away, drummer Andy Bauer lays down a big beat and Eli lets loose a series of screams and shouts in order to be heard.

All of Reed’s skills as a singer, guitarist, songwriter and arranger are best displayed on “(Am I Just) Fooling Myself”. This dark tale of love turned bad simmers with raw emotion as Reed slowly builds the intensity of his performance. He squeezes out brief bursts of notes on his guitar to ratchet up the tension, building to a seemingly calm end before he returns with a cathartic vocal explosion that provides a more satisfying conclusion.

It is hard to believe that a 24-year old white man could craft such an original and compelling tribute to soul music. It is apparent that Eli and the True Loves have really done their homework. They offer a fresh interpretation of the music they love. What sets this disc apart is the talent of the leader. Paperboy Reed is a true soul man with talent to burn. Give Roll With You a listen and hear it for yourself. This one is highly recommended !!!

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