Marcell and the Truth
Marcell and the Truth
In a time when the music industry has grown too smart for itself, when radio is filled with overproduced, mechanical songs that are more about attitude than music, a casual listener would be led to believe that organic soul music no longer existed. And that's what makes Marcell and the Truth that much more special. At its most basic it is vocals, guitar, drums and bass. At its most expansive it includes up to a dozen people, with backing singers, a full horn section and the kind of full sound that soul music fans almost took for granted three decades ago and are starved for today.
Back in the 70s, groups like Earth Wind & Fire, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Tower of Power, Heatwave and literally dozens of other self-contained bands dominated the radio and the concert scene, combining classic, soulful material and true musicianship. Today those acts remain the gold standard and the favorites of music festivals, as the next two generations of radio artists lacked both the cohesiveness and the musicianship to transcend, to unify, to move listeners. And that's where Marcell and the Truth come in. Their debut album, Hopes Too High, was simply jaw dropping. Recalling Maze's best work musically and possessing an honesty - a raw "truth" to its message - that rose above the commonplace, it seemingly came out of nowhere to land on list after list of the top albums of 2006. And in a single season it took a band from Baltimore that had been playing together for five years and created for them an international following, from the Northern Soul fans in London to the "steppers" in Detroit and Chicago; all grooving to a unique blend of old school and new school and clamoring to see the band's live show.
Ah, the live show. East Coast fans have experienced it for years, and the rest of the world is just seeing it now: Marcell Russell, his 6' 3'' former defensive lineman frame belying a smooth voice that can move to a whisper on the group's plaintive ballads and can soar on their big, funky numbers. Bags, Marcell's longtime friend and collaborator, on rhythm guitar, CJ on drums, Gerald on bass and the rest of the band, together nearly overwhelming audiences in smaller clubs and hitting every corner of even the biggest halls with their full sound. It is a band that is hitting on all cylinders, helping to lead a rebirth of soul music that is reaching a fever pitch as we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st Century.
Music fans have spent a large part of the last decade suffering from the fragmentation and cynicism of modern radio, particularly modern urban radio, where electronics and gimmicks have too often replaced the glorious combination of intelligent lyrics and full, creative musicianship. So it is particularly refreshing when an act comes along that gets it right, not pandering, not compromising, but rising above the mundane. Marcel and the Truth is that kind of act. Feeling trapped? The Truth will set you free.
By Chris Rizik