Song of the Week – Call Me, St Paul and the Broken Bones

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

A few weeks ago I saw St Paul and the Broken Bones for the second time at the Fox Theater in Oakland.  Paul and the band are at the top of their game.  Paul is a terrific singer and entertainer and the band is tight!

St Paul (Janeway) got his nickname from his bass playing bandmate, Jesse Phillips, because he doesn’t have many vices.  Janeway has said “I’ve never drank, or smoked, or anything like that. He thought that would be funny and, of course, with the preacher background, it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek.  And the Broken Bones comes from the first song that me and Jesse ever wrote in his living room. It was called ‘Broken Bones and Pocket Change,‘ and the line goes ‘All she left me with was broken bones and pocket change. So all she left me with was hardly any money and this band.’ So it kind of worked out that way.”

Yes, it’s true that growing up in Alabama, St Paul was raised in the church with little exposure to the outside world.  “The only secular music that I heard at all was a ‘70s group called the Stylistics, and Sam Cooke. That was about it. The rest of it was all gospel music. When I was about 10 years old, I was groomed to be a minister. My goal in life until I was about 18 years old was to be a preacher.”

He later spent time working as a mechanic and trained to be an accountant, all the while dabbling in music.  When his first EP, recorded with Phillips, gained some notice, they decided to go all in.

Today’s SotW is “Call Me”, a concert favorite from his 2014 release Half the City.

The Music Musings and Such blog raves about “Call Me” writing:

From the first seconds, horns burst and pervade against a plinking guitar line. At first, it is quite tender and composed; delicate strings and emotive brass do their work, before the song is opened up and strikes. With its Motown-flavoured sounds, there is an energy whipped up that not only gets you to your feet, but puts you in mind of some of the late, greats- Otis Redding came to mind, initially. Janeway, however, is his own man, and with a powerful and crackling soul tone, he lays bare his emotions. Early words talk of realisations and emotional ground; with some ambiguity and mystery laid in, cards are being kept close to chests: “This ain’t the heartache/That I thought I knew/This ain’t the party/That I thought we do“. The band aptly and deftly support out hero, eliciting a smooth, sexy and powerful composition, that blends their components together. Percussion is steady but driving; guitar and bass is uplifting (and funky, somehow); in the midst of brass notes which swirl and sway. In the video for the song, our hero stands by the mic., side-stepping and arm-waving. Entranced by the rhythm (and perhaps his own voice) the band play around him- the boys never let the smile drop. Whether the song is surveying a broken relationship or is a calling card to a desired sweetheart, I am unsure, but you get some oblique- yet evocative- images and words summoned up; everything is pure but filthy; direct yet withdrawn. Sentiments such as “You got your limit/Baby I got mine/Six Eleven/Three Three Six Nine” perhaps have a lot more sweat than sweetness; our hero roars and powers through each line, ensuring that it fully hits home. It seems that there is some resistance around town; that some tongues are talking- causing ruction and anger in Janeway’s mind. Leonine of voice, evisceration and laceration are words that come to mind; truths are being laid down, and a weight is exorcised from his soul.

St Paul and the Broken Bones have appeared on all the late night TV shows and performed “A Change is Gonna Come” with Lizzo at SXSW in 2014.

Enjoy… until next week.

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