As I mentioned before "Soul" in music is not so much about the style of the music. In this blogging I'd like to discuss another element of soul which is the ability of an artist to connect with the listeners. The connection factor of music is always easier to discern in live music. I've heard pleanty of "Soulful" artist live that were not able to capture that connection with the listener on their recordings either because they produced the thing to death or because of the very unatural proccess of recording a song as a fixed copy. For instance I saw Keb' Mo' live one time at the House of Blues in New Orleans. It was one of the best shows I'd seen. It was simply Keb Mo and a guy playing a little rhythm guitar for him and he freakin rocked the house. The connection with the crowd of 1,000 + people in the club was amazing. It's hard for any solo artist with an acoustic guitar to connect with a large group of people but he had the place jumpin, clappin, and singing along. I promptly went out and bought several Keb Mo albums. Though the guy is a killer songwriter and performer I was a bit dissapointed that the connection that was in the House of Blues was diminished on the CDs. They were still good but live he was amazing.
A friend of mine Ryan Delmore came out with a CD a year or so ago called Devotion. I remember when I first met him he told me about his CD. He just said it was a simple CD of some songs and that he hadn't got to add much in the way of drums and so the songs were pretty sparse on production. Well I got the CD and it had the goods. It had soul in the connection sense. Sure it wasn't polished perfect but it had connection. When you listen to it you're drawn in to what he's saying. Your not wowed by production tricks and cool guitar effects, but you're very connected. That's where his CD really succeeds.
I'm reminded of a recent interview with Brian Eno in Mix magazine. Eno was talking about the temptation of musicians these days to use technology as a bit of a crutch. He talked of a band that added some thirty tracks of belles and wistles to the instrumental section of a song when in reality they just had a week chorus. The song didn't need more tracks of music it needed work in the writing.
The reality is that good songs connect with people even when they are done simply (particularly when they are done simply).
My band has covered a lot of U2 songs and I often pull out U2 songs on solo gigs. We never try to play the songs like U2 because well we're not U2. The thing is that a U2 song doesn't need Edge's chiming delayed guitars, Bono's rockstar antics, and Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton's groove to work (though they do work very well that way). They work as acoustic songs because they are written well. The songs are full of soul. They connect whether U2 is playing them in front of 200,000 people or I'm covering them at a coffee shop with 10 patrons. U2 writes songs with connecting with people in mind and that element of soul comes through everything they do.
More to Come