The Suffers - Make Some Room (2015)

The Suffers
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They only have four songs to convince us that they’re the real deal. Half the number of a scratchy old school vinyl album with half the opportunities to make us love them. They manage it in one, with the title track, and then again and again without yield. They’ve come to conquer. Grand in size and artistic scope, the 10-piece Gulf Coast Soul band with the fiery lead-singer-that-could stakes a righteous claim on unmarked territory as one of the emerging soul bands to beat. They call themselves The Suffers, but on their independently released four-song EP, Make Some Room, the only suffering listeners will experience is when the music comes to an end.

They only have four songs to convince us that they’re the real deal. Half the number of a scratchy old school vinyl album with half the opportunities to make us love them. They manage it in one, with the title track, and then again and again without yield. They’ve come to conquer. Grand in size and artistic scope, the 10-piece Gulf Coast Soul band with the fiery lead-singer-that-could stakes a righteous claim on unmarked territory as one of the emerging soul bands to beat. They call themselves The Suffers, but on their independently released four-song EP, Make Some Room, the only suffering listeners will experience is when the music comes to an end.

The instantly believable, full-bodied, raspy alto of one Ms. Kam Franklin is a gift. The Houston, Texas based big band that backs her is doing yeoman’s work. There is very little with which to find fault on the band’s retro brand of classic soul sounds. Unlike an act like say Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Lee Fields, or Charles Bradley, the material doesn’t feel frozen in time. Torchy ballads like the seven-minute, fifteen second tour-de-force, “Giver,” are clearly referencing the simmering slow jams that used to people Quiet Storm formats for a couple of generations, but the freshness of Franklin’s voice and some of the smart arrangement choices give their material a vibrancy that escapes fixed time capsules. It helps that each deftly written song is a melodic dream.

While a cut like “Giver” stands out, if only because we’ve been sorely missing this kind of ballad in the industry as a whole, it is not without well-dressed friends. The rhythmically conga-licious “Gwan” is positively frenzied with a runaway bassline and a voluminous horn section that makes the ends of each belted verse a series of combination punches that all land in knockouts. The soothing mid-tempo, “Stay,” is reggae church in the club, with a final stretch littered with rafter wails in voice and horn kept earthbound by a twangy guitar and laidback drums. Meanwhile the open-air “Make Some Room” is tonally reminiscent of Adriana Evans’ debut work with producer Dred Scott, if with more of a Vegas in the ‘70s lounge style. For an album bonus, pick up their 2013 “Slow It Down/Step Aside” single from their Bandcamp site. “Slow It Down” opens with a breathtaking drum solo before settling into a calypso infused Caribbean groove, sinewy vocals, choral harmonies, and again a set of killer horns on the vamp out that remind us all what soul has been missing.

They are already the 2014 Houston Press Music Awards winners for Best Drummer, Songwriter, Vocals, Soul Group, and Musician of the Year. And they richly deserve wins in each areas. Not since KING burst through with their three-song EP, The Story, several years back has a short EP been so overflowing with everything we love about soul. Suffer no more; cop The Suffers’ Make Some Room. You’ll be glad you did.  Highly Recommended.

By L. Michael Gipson

 
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