The Soul Rebels
Poetry In Motion
Mack Avenue Music Group
The Soul Rebels are a fantastic live act. I’ve seen them on tour, playing music festivals in Tampa and the intimate Ale and Witch in St. Petersburg. Seeing the Soul Rebels was seeing a tradition evolving in real time. In the Ale and Witch courtyard, I saw a Brass Band integrating hip-hop into their sound seamlessly. It really isn’t a huge jump from the call and response vocals of a standard like “Lil Liza Jane” to the raps livening up their show. The Soul Rebels are unafraid to embrace pop music. The absolute high point of Katie Perry’s set at Jazz Fest was the Soul Rebels bringing the Second Line to the pop princess’s tune. It’s one of those Jazz Fest moments I’ll never forget.
Poetry In Motion is a culture shock for someone expecting to hear something rooted in the Brass Band tradition. The Soul Rebels have taken their love for hip-hop and urban soul to new levels on this record. Every song features guests. The opening track, “Blow the Horns” is a pure rap tune with Passport P, Julian Gosin and Sean Carey trading verses. The song is so backed with electronics that I wonder if the actual Soul Rebels are just samples in the mix. “Down for My City” is a love letter to New Orleans featuring Trombone Shorty, Kermit Ruffins, Mia X, Cheeky Black and Emeril Lagasse. The song asks, “What kind of city has?” followed by things people love about the city, the food, the music, the Saints, and on and on. “It’s Up to You” gives us a taste of Reggaeton and Matisyahu brings us some spiritually awareness on “Count Your Blessings.”
“Good Time” time is a party anthem that wouldn’t sound out of place in dance clubs or the radio. Passport P and Denisia take the vocal leads talking about wanting to party and, well, have a good time. In the background, you hear Big Freedia’s baritone playing hype women until she steps up to the lead. The song is fun and you can hear the Soul Rebels horns laying down a foundation for the singers.
There are a few songs on Poetry in Motion that are jazz-rooted instrumentals (more or less what I was expecting to find on the record). “Rebellious Destroyer” features Branford Marsalis on a smooth flowing jazz chart. The genre defying twist comes when harpist Brandee Younger slides into the mix. “Sabor Latino” is a fun, hip shaking, and Latin jazz tune featuring some hot horn work from Trombone Shorty.
On first listen, I didn’t know what to make of Poetry In Motion. It wasn’t the Soul Rebels I expected; yet it was fully in character for a band that wants to take their music far and wide. Why shouldn’t the Soul Rebels take full advantage of the studio to make the music they want? Ultimately, I came to appreciate the wide ranging sounds the Soul Rebels embrace here. Now, I hope I get a chance to see how they bring a song like “Down for My City” to life in a live setting.