"Morrissey gets a bad rap for being this mopey guy, and he writes some of the fucking funniest lyrics ever."
--Chris Lopez (Tenement Halls)
Dec.14 Cover - St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Written by Jeff Clark   
ImageFrom Barrooms to Ballrooms
The Mighty Rise of St. Paul & the Broken Bones

Last month St. Paul & the Broken Bones headlined two sold-out nights at the Alabama Theatre, a 2,500-seat restored 1920s movie house analogous to Atlanta’s Fox, in their Birmingham hometown. It was a sweet reminder of how far they’ve come in such a short span, having formed only two years ago, with their debut album Half the City released this past February on Single Lock Records.

For Paul Janeway, the group’s 31-year-old bespectacled power-belter, the turnaround has been even more drastic. Five years ago he was unemployed, living in his dad’s spare apartment, ready to give up music to study to become an accountant. Five years ago was also when he met his fiancée, whom he’ll be marrying this month. “My, my, how time changes,” he laughs. “She stuck with me! That takes a special person, it really does. Because my life has been very, very interesting in the past five years.”

What sets St. Paul & the Broken Bones apart from other recent soul revivalist acts? Well, it’s unlikely that you’d find another that looks like a bigger bunch of goobers, for one! But that just seems to make their instinctual grasp of this sound all the more remarkable. These guys get it. As Janeway points out during our recent phone conversation, “it really is a feeling. I think the one thing that we kind of understand is the spirit of it – just how it’s kind of a raw emotion thing. I don’t think people get that much anymore.”

Listening to Half the City, recorded and produced by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes, I’m reluctant to even use the term “revivalist” to describe what St. Paul & the Broken Bones accomplish, any more than I’d dismiss a great new rock ‘n’ roll band as “rock revivalists.” There’s simply a classic, traditional manner of performing great Stax/Muscle Shoals music, and the Broken Bones – Janeway, bassist Jesse Phillips, guitarist Browan Lollar, drummer Andrew Lee, organist Al Gamble and Allen Branstetter and Ben Griner on horns – are for the most part adhering to that can’t-lose formula, albeit thrillingly well and with original material that brings a genuine stir to my jaded sensibilities.

In advance of St. Paul & the Broken Bones’ show in Atlanta Dec. 27th in the Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom, Janeway’s first show as a newly married man, the singer told me about some of the ups and downs that brought a small town preacher boy to the point of picking up the phone to find Elton John on the other line…


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