Three albums in, St. Paul & The Broken Bones have helped redefine the modern sound of rhythm and blues and repurposed it into a contemporary context. They aren’t the only ones who have dipped into that formula of late with Mike Farris, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and The War & Treaty reviving and rebooting that seminal sound and helped bring it a new wave of populist appeal.
Young Sick Camellia will likely allow St. Paul & The Broken Bones to further etch their niche as major players in that recent renaissance of sorts. It’s an album with a heft and richness that easily makes an emphatic impression even on first hearing. The performances are first rate, underscored by Stax-sounding horn charts and a breezy delivery that would qualify for radio readiness on both pop and R&B radio charts three or four decades removed. The combination of a smooth groove and singer Paul Janeway’s emotive vocals make songs such as “Mr. Invisible” and “Nasa” excellent examples of the band’s confidence and credence.
The band touts the new album as a conceptual piece that begs the question of how to create an intimate bond with someone whose thoughts and ideas divulge so decidedly from our own. With the social and political divide that’s become so pronounced in this country of late, that’s clearly a question that begs asking. On the other hand, the answers aren’t abundantly clear. While “Convex,” “GotItBad” and “Apollo” offer classic examples of that aforementioned old school soul, intermittent spoken segments interspersed as telephone conversations between Janeway and his octogenarian grandfather effectively reinforce the thematic content. Although these interludes sometime come across as a momentary distraction, they don’t detract from the overall synergy or sound.
Even though Young Sick Camellia maintains its old school vibe, it still manages to inject a fresh, vibrant and a vivid reminder that even in an age where the next big deal is based on making a weird, wacky impression, going back to the basics has its merits as well. Credit St. Paul & The Broken Bones with emphasizing timelessness over trendiness, all the while remaining engrossing and relevant.