St. Paul & The Broken Bones w/ Shovels & Rope

St. Paul & The Broken Bones w/ Shovels & Rope

Wed, June 14, 2017

Doors: 6:00 pm / Show: 7:00 pm

Boston Seaport

Boston, MA

$39.50 advance / $42 day of show

This event is all ages

St. Paul & The Broken Bones
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Sea of Noise, the second full-length album by St. Paul and the Broken Bones, marks a quantum leap in sound and style for the high-voltage Birmingham, Alabama-based band.

Produced by Paul Butler and recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium, the group’s sophomore effort features an expanded eight-piece lineup of the widely praised soul-based rock unit. Longtime members Paul Janeway (lead vocals), Jesse Phillips (bass, guitar), Browan Lollar (guitars), Andrew Lee (drums), Al Gamble (keyboards), and Allen Branstetter (trumpet) are joined by Jason Mingledorff (saxophone, clarinet, flute), and Chad Fisher (trombone).

The collection of new original songs is the group’s first release on RECORDS, a joint venture of SONGS Publishing, winner of ASCAP’s 2016 independent publisher of the year award, and veteran label executive Barry Weiss.

Sea of Noise is a successor to the Broken Bones’ 2013 debut album Half the City, which introduced the group’s blazing mating of ‘60s soul fire – daubed with latter-day influences like Sly Stone, David Bowie, and Prince — to Janeway’s impassioned singing and writing. The new album witnesses a deepening and broadening of the unit’s musical reach and lyrical concerns.

“It felt like it happened organically,” Janeway says of the band’s development. “With the last record, it was like doing things with your hair on fire – going in, recording it live. There’s a sense of urgency to having a record like that. We were only a band for about five months at that point. I didn’t know my voice – I’d never done this professionally. I was just learning more nuance, and about carrying a melody. You don’t have to go for it 100% all the time. You can draw people in by giving and taking.”

Janeway says that he and his close musical associate Phillips began to ponder the direction of the band’s second album a year and a half ago. “If we had been forced to go into a studio a year and a half ago, we probably would have done a better version of Half the City,” he says. “There would have been nothing wrong with that. But we started evolving, or changing.”

Work began in earnest during last year’s Coachella festival in California: “We rented a house in San Bernardino Valley National Park. The week in between the two weekends, we really started to hash things out. Then we rented out a very hot warehouse in Birmingham where we could write. And me and Jesse and a few of us would send stuff back and forth via Dropbox. That gave me the ability to work on harmonies on the vocals. I wanted to take it up a notch, in all realms.”

Looking to such inspirations as Tom Waits and Nick Cave, Janeway was intent on lifting his game as a songwriter on material for the second album. “I’m married to a woman with a masters in literature, and I can’t show her lyrics unless I’m pretty proud of ‘em,” he says. “I had to sit and think about what I’m saying – what do I want to say, is there anything to say? What’s my perspective as this Southern kid who’s watching the modern world and feeling very much like an alien in a lot of ways. This is more personal. If you’re going to say something, say something, and don’t waste your breath unless you feel like you’re saying something.”

Janeway adds that his reading of the book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, played a role in the direction of the work: “I didn’t want it to be an overly political record, but I feel it shows up a little bit on the album.”

With a full complement of new songs in hand, St. Paul and the Broken Bones entered the studio with Butler, leader of the British band the Bees and producer of Devendra Banhart and Michael Kiwanuka.

“Jesse was listening to one of his records and he said, ‘Everything sounds great,’” Janeway recalls. “It sounded like a real record – everything had depth, and was expansive-sounding. Butler ended up being the guy that we wanted to use. Producer-wise, I think we knocked a home run. He is very meticulous.”

On Sea of Noise, the band’s brawny horn-driven sound is augmented – and displaced — by the use of a string quartet and a vocal choir. The strings – recorded at Memphis’ historic Sam Phillips Recording by engineer Jeff Powell – were arranged by Lester Snell, a veteran of Stax Records sessions by Isaac Hayes, Shirley Brown, Albert King, and the Staple Singers, among many others. Janeway says of Snell, “He did all these classic, great records in Memphis – he did the string arrangements on them. The strings, for us, supply a darker tone. Horns sometimes can’t portray a certain darkness. We thought that would be the best option, instead of horn lines. We have songs on this record that don’t have any horns at all.”

Employed on “Crumbling Light Posts,” the recurring motif that appears three times on the album, Jason Clark and the Tennessee Mass Choir were recorded in another legendary Memphis facility. “The Stax Museum let us go in there after hours and record the choir,” Janeway says, adding with a laugh. “We said, ‘Well, hell, we’re in Memphis, let’s just see if they’ll do it.’ It was pretty neat, I’m not gonna lie.”

He says of the finished work, “Sea of Noise is not quite a full-blown concept record. It is focused in terms of subject matter – finding redemption and salvation and hope. ‘Crumbling Light Posts’ comes from an old Winston Churchill quote, in which he said England was a crumbling lighthouse in a sea of darkness. I always thought that was a really interesting concept – that we’re falling anyway. In this day and age, it is the noise that has defined so many things. We’re going to fall to it eventually, but for now we feel like our heads are above water. It felt anthemic.”

The album’s lyrical and emotional richness is heard loudly in stunning new compositions like “Burning Rome” (which Janeway describes as “a letter to God, if I could write it”) and the startling “I’ll Be Your Woman,” which knocks traditional soul music gender roles on their heads. Janeway says of the latter song, “I wrote that with Jesse, and he said, ‘If I can write that song, I can die a happy man, because I’ve finally made something that I feel can stand up to my standards.’”

St. Paul and the Broken Bones, which toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe behind their debut album, will put their take-no-prisoners live show on the road this fall. Their most recent concert work included arena dates opening for the Rolling Stones in Atlanta and Buffalo. Some acts may have been daunted by such a task, but not this one.

“It was pretty neat, it was pretty crazy,” Janeway says. “I love the Rolling Stones, but my train of thought is, you gotta try and blow ‘em off the stage. And that’s still my goal.”
Shovels & Rope
Shovels & Rope
Little Seeds, the electrifying New West Records bow by Shovels and Rope, finds the award-winning South Carolina duo of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst exploring fresh dimensions in their sound with a brace of bold, candid, highly personal new songs.

The 12-song collection, produced by Trent at the couple’s home studio in Charleston, succeeds 2014’s Swimmin’ Time and 2012’s O’ Be Joyful; the latter title garnered the twosome Americana Music Awards for Song of the Year (for “Birmingham”) and Emerging Artist of the Year. Last year’s Busted Jukebox, Volume 1 was a collaborative collection of covers featuring such top talents as the Milk Carton Kids, Lucius, JD McPherson and Butch Walker.

On the new release, Trent and Hearst as ever play all the instruments and penned the material, which range from stomping rockers to delicate acoustic-based numbers. Many of Little Seeds’ finely crafted and reflective new songs – completed in the late summer of 2015 — are drawn from tumultuous events experienced by the couple over the course of the last two years.

“There were two major changes that happened at the same time,” Hearst says. “We found out we were pregnant, and at the same time Michael’s parents had been living with us, because his father is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Those two things, having the baby and facing the reality that our parents were aging, made this weird, awesome circle of humanity that really just took us out. I guess we were in the crosshairs of human existence.” Trent continues, “We started putting this record together right after the baby was born. Every spare moment I had I was in the studio doing my best to work around the cries, and Cary would have to sneak up and do her parts when the baby was asleep. It’s a funny thing trying to make a rock n roll record with a sleeping baby in the house.”

Hearst adds, “As we were finishing the record and making the final decisions about what to include in it, our good friend Eric was killed here in town. We ended up dedicating the record to his memory. The beginning of ‘This Ride’ is actually Eric’s mother telling the true story of how he had been born in the back of a police car. With her blessing, we added that to frame ‘This Ride.’”

“Invisible Man” and “Mourning Song,” were directly inspired by the debilitating illness faced by Trent’s father. Hearst says of the former song, “The disease is preventing him from being able to mentally wrap his mind around it. I wanted to speak for him. I wanted to express what it would be like for a man like him, a capable, funny dude. I wanted to put that in an up-tempo pop song, because it’s always interesting for dark material to be presented that way.”

Of “Mourning Song,” Trent says, “I was envisioning what it was going to be like for my mother after he wasn’t around anymore. It’s weird, maybe, to write a song about the death of your father who hasn’t died yet. It seemed like something he would do – write a tune to comfort my mother after he’s gone.

The hushed, moving spoken word “BWYR”, a song of unity at a time when some try to divide, is torn from an event close to home: the mass shootings at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June 2015.

“The night we heard about it, we were in Denver and approaching the end of ‘touring while pregnant’, which was pretty intense,” Trent says. “We flew to Chicago, our show was cancelled – it was rained out – and we were stuck in the hotel, and that’s where it was written. We were talking to our friends and texting, and we wanted to be home so bad, to be with our people. These mass shootings seemed to be happening every weekend, and the thought of bringing a child into the world was overwhelming and scary.”

“Buffalo Nickel” takes on the most personal of all subjects: Trent and Hearst’s relationship as a married couple who also collaborate creatively. Only as the song developed did they begin to understand its topic. “We were trying to figure out what the story was about,” Trent says, “and the more we wrote on it, we said, ‘Are we talking about us here? Are we airing some things here?’” Without a beat, Hearst adds with a laugh, “And we were.”

Little Seeds also contains songs that deploy Shovels and Rope’s widely admired talents as storytellers: the thrashing “I Know,” a wryly observed description of intra-band backbiting, and “Botched Execution,” a darkly funny tale of a convict on the run in the manner of Southern gothic writer Flannery O’Connor. Inspired by a concise history written by Hearst’s father, “Missionary Ridge” looks back at the decisive 1863 Civil War battle.

The album also tips a hat to the group’s Americana forebears. “The Last Hawk” pays homage to Garth Hudson, the master keyboardist of the Band, who Hearst calls “a quiet genius, this weird, wonderful creature who can do anything with music.” Trent recalls, “There was an article in Rolling Stone that was one of the first things you’d ever seen where it was just Garth, explaining things from his take. We read it on an airplane, and I looked over at Cary, and she was crying – it really moved her.”

Both Trent and Hearst acknowledge that making Little Seeds took the band into previously unexplored and even unimagined creative terrain.

“It was cathartic,” says Trent. “There were some songs we had trouble getting through because it was too emotional for us. That’s not really how we had approached songwriting in the past — we got really into writing character-based songs on Swimmin’ Time. For Little Seeds, this is what was going on, and it was all consuming, physically and emotionally, and I feel like we couldn’t help but to be very raw and honest.”

Hearst says, “At a certain point in your relationship, professional or personal, you think it’s maybe run its course – ‘We can’t possibly write more together than we have in the past. We can’t possibly live closer than we have in the past. We can’t possibly understand each other more.’ But in the last couple of years, that has happened. We have become even more intimate as writing partners, and in life, collaboratively. It showed me that there were new depths to conquer in our creative life and our personal life and our family life. It’s all deeper and wider than I could ever have imagined it. Which is great.”
Venue Information:
Boston Seaport
Seaport Ln.
Boston, MA, 02210