Stack-O-Soul [Release date 18.06.15]
‘Soulstack’ is a song driven, soulful roots-rock album with plenty of feel, by a band that is at its best when it stretches out. And therein lies a slight problem, because in their efforts to present polished hook laden songs they too infrequently fulfil their overall potential.
This is their third album and for the most part it’s a soulful mellifluous, but understated effort that flickers and only burns on stellar moments such as the funky opener ‘Just Don’t Call It The Blues’ – splendid vocals, fine band interplay and a good hook – and the album highlight ‘No Man’s Land’ , which combines a crunching riff led work-out with a colourful narrative: ‘Come in late, lord you stink of gin, truck stop cologne and a night of sin.”
Front man Jonathan Knight and his band, compromising guitarist Chris Latta, Mark Wessenger on keys, bassist Darryl ‘Harpo’ Peterson and drummer Tom Bona try to hard to nail a commercial approach which mires them in a pleasant white boy soul territory that all too rarely lights the touch paper.
‘Tip Of My Tongue’ for example’, is one of their best such efforts, but it never quite gets beyond the MOR feel of say Paul Carrack, while the uplifting chorus of ‘Can’t Take It With You’ verges on the poppy, albeit they have sufficient confidence in the arrangement to break the song down and then work their way back to the chorus.
‘Lot Of Good Men’ is a bristling groove which works towards feverish finale, before a subtle drop down. The band also subtly shifts from soul to Americana on ‘Love Thing’ and the closing ‘Love Don’t Wait’. Both songs are well suited to an outfit that verges on the soulful side of fellow Canadians The Band, and Little Feat.
You can feel Soulstack’s effortless ability in both their musical sweep and intuitive interplay, but while there’s a welcome emphasis on song craft, you can’t help but feel this is a band that too often plays within itself.
Aside from the two earlier highlighted tracks, they never quite break beyond the evocative Ben E. King feel of ‘Little Fire Alive’, or the contemporary soul feel of ‘Real Bad Feeling’, while Knight’s tasteful Knopfler stylings don’t quite deliver the similar punch offered by Wessenger’s muscular B3 breaks.
Perhaps the band’s music ambition is writ large in their name and they achieved what they aimed for, but for a third album it’s not quite the definitive statement we might have hoped for. ***½
Review by Pete Feenstra
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