Tag Archives: Soul

The Honest Soul of Carlton Jumel Smith

Carlton Jumel Smith

Photo by Julia Braga

Holding court at Jimmy’s Corner, a vintage bar in Manhattan’s Times Square where the jukebox rolls out classics from the Stax and Curtom labels, the soul singer Carlton Jumel Smith tells an anecdote about James Brown gifting him a bowtie he’d been wearing on stage during a show. According to the 59-year-old Smith, who grew up in Spanish Harlem, he then wore Brown’s bowtie for good luck during a successful audition to portray the funk hero in director Barry Levinson’s 1999 movie Liberty Heights. Just as this series of events begins to sound like a fanciful tale being spun by an old timer, Smith pulls his laptop out of his backpack and opens up pictures of him and Brown, complete with the fabled bowtie.

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Album of the Day: Alice Clark, “Alice Clark”

Alice Clark, who died in 2004 at the young age of 57, is a legend among funk and soul aficionados. Her recorded legacy consists of two late ’60s singles and this self-titled album, produced by Bob Shad for the Mainstream label in 1972. The pensive cover photo is a key to the music contained within: the album has the classic soul sound of Muscle Shoals at times, particularly on the almost Aretha Franklin-esque opening version of Jimmy Webb’s “I Keep it Hid,” but moves into a softer, jazzier realm on tracks like “Looking at Life” and “It Takes Too Long to Learn to Live Alone.” Clark’s vocals can swell like a river threatening to overflow its banks, but more often than not she’s beautifully controlled, flowing along with the serenity of Roberta Flack or Dionne Warwick.

The band on Alice Clark includes session aces like drummer Bernard Purdie and guitarist Cornell Dupree, and Shad’s production is lush without sacrificing visceral impact. Clark, born in Brooklyn, had the restraint of a city girl, rather than the unfettered emotionality of a Southern church-bred singer; there’s something guarded, a you-won’t-hurt-me undertone to her delivery. And while the music is fundamentally soul, there are dashes of jazz thrown in here and there, particularly on the closing “Hey Girl,” which lets both the trumpeter and saxophonist off the leash, albeit briefly.

-Phil Freeman

Album of the Day: Brijean, “Walkie Talkie”


Percussionist Brijean Murphy is perhaps best known for her collaborations with Toro Y Moi, Poolside, and U.S. Girls, but on Walkie Talkie, she steps out on her own. The result is a smooth, sumptuous, and soulful record—one that feels like a journey through tropical house. 

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The Best Soul on Bandcamp: May 2019


Madison McFerrin

This month’s soul takes us around the world. South Africa’s Seba Kaapstad infuses soul, jazz, and R&B into their stellar Thina; Hawaii’s Maryanne Ito gives soul a loungey, intimate feel; and Brooklyn’s Madison McFerrin re-envisions her “soul cappella.” Take a listen to this global mash-up of artists. 

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On Jitwam’s “Honeycomb,” Funk and Soul Meet Global Sounds


Jitwam’s life story feels like it was written on an atlas. He was born in India and grew up in Australia; after university, he traveled through Africa, Asia, South America, and lived in the U.K., before relocating to New York City in 2017. But once he got to New York, he realized that he had a problem. At the time, he was unable to legally work in the United States—meaning that he was living in one of the most expensive cities in the world with no way to support himself. Self-doubt and stress quickly began closing in. But if there’s one thing extensive travel will teach you, it’s that the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity can be a matter of perspective.

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Album of the Day: Christelle Bofale, “Swim Team”

Christelle Bofale has a superpowered voice that flows like water. Her debut album, Swim Team, is lush and inviting, a carefully crafted project that evinces a clear artistic vision. Part indie rock and part soul, it’s a stellar introduction to Bofale’s singular sound.

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Album of the Day: Mavis Staples, “We Get By”

Mavis Staples has never shied away from making a statement, going all the way back to the raw vocal power and unshakeable commitment of The Staple Singers’ 1965 civil rights anthem “Freedom Highway.” The records she’s been making on ANTI for the last 15 years — the overt examples being We’ll Never Turn Back and If All I Was Was Black — have been increasingly oriented toward raising consciousness and, considering our country’s current state, we need Staples’ fiery forward momentum more than ever.

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Skinny Pelembe Can (Literally) Write Songs in His Sleep

Skinny Pelembe

The South Africa-born, British-raised multi-instrumentalist and singer Skinny Pelembe has been using his discography as a way to write little notes to himself. The title of his 2018 EP, Sleep More, Make More Friends, is advice he gave himself in one of his dream journals, the contents of which he also uses as rough sketches for his lyrics. His full-length debut, Dreaming Is Dead Now, is a reference to his favorite way to write songs: by going to sleep, and letting his subconsciousness reign free.

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