A Southern R&B Band Bares Its Very Modern Soul
Name: Ruby Velle and The Soulphonics
Where They’re From: Atlanta, Georgia
Genre: Soul, R&B
Most Similar: Sharon Jones, V.V. Brown
Sounds Like: An alternate history of getting down
Favorite Lyric: Go on, and get yourself out of my place soon/Don’t worry, I hear your mama’s house got room.
Raw and stylish, classic yet fresh, you’ve got to see Ruby Velle and her Soulphonics live to really experience their deep soul revival. Ideally, you would see them on a humid summer night in one of the many dive bars of Atlanta, Georgia, the lucky city Ms. Ruby calls home. If the mood is right (and it almost always is) you’ll get even more than a gorgeous Indian-Canadian girl with a big voice like warm Nutella fronting a tight R&B band. You might see that what they do isn’t quite revivalist after all. It’s true that few bands this side of the Daptone roster are as faithful to the roots of soul and R&B, but how could you call anything that sounds so timeless a revival?
The Soulphonic’s dues paying in Atlanta’s live scene has gotten them voted the city’s best soul band two years in a row by Creative Loafing, but they’ve only just released their debut album, It’s About Time. It’s a mature and sophisticated outing, devoid of any Winehousian miserablism. On “The Agenda” Velle sounds like Alicia Keys working with some top Motown session players circa 1966, while “Coming Home” wraps itself in shades of Natalie Cole and Carole King. Songs like “My Dear” and “The Man” deal with these hard economic times with compassion and righteous anger, while the saucy “Medicine Spoon” is a very grown-up song about kicking that manchild in your life to the curb for his own damn good.
At bottom, It’s About Time is not about nostalgia or crate digging. It’s about brick-house songwriting that goes all-in for heat, flavor and style in all the places where another group of artists might pull back in a misguided bid for commercial viability. Good thing. Now, if you can’t make it over to Atlanta, there’s a pretty sweet substitute available.