The Suffers - Everything Here (2018)

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    The Suffers - Everything Here

    The Suffers - Everything Here

    Settling into an enveloping sound and vibrant groove after releasing three near-perfect EPs and one fantastic full-length debut, the Houston-based, eight-piece band The Suffers is once again back to combat the notion that all is lost in band-based, traditional soul. Recorded with polished musicians, a strong horn section, and a florid singer who is not afraid to belt her emotions, The Suffers are handily winning at dishing out healthy dollops of the warm comfort food those of us reared on ‘70s through ‘90s R&B/Soul can never get enough of. As with those eras, not everything is fine, but enough is exceptional to craft rose-colored glasses for that which is not.

    Kicking off the bright and often sumptuous proceedings is singer Kam Franklin’s harmony nod to groups like The Emotions on a cut that features fellow Houston rapper Paul Wall's ‘70s soul talking over a bed of lush orchestrations that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Floaters or Stylistics track (UGK’s rapper Bun B’s follow-up later in an identical exercise is somewhat less effective on repeat). The smooth and humorous Wall stunt casting is followed by the multi-movement “I Think I Love You,” which includes an extended instrumental to show off various bandmembers well-honed skills and an overflow of creative musical ideas. Adding Franklin’s honeyed alto to the peppy “Do Whatever” melts the summer soul jam into a high carbs filler that delights the senses. The band is at its best on Everything Here when it is exploring light, shimmering sounds, peppered with horns sporting a vaguely Southwestern, Mariachi musical feel as they do on “All I Want To Do” and the title track. Straight-ahead, light funk grooves like “What You Said” also surprise the ears with fleeting moments of thrilling counterpoint and “in the pocket” progressions that put a grade-A stamp on the band’s technical prowess.

    With 15 tracks, the most from The Suffers in a single helping, there is bound to be filler material that doesn’t quite match the more prestige offerings of the set. Songs like “The One About Sace” and the quasi-experimental “After The Storm (feat. Lyle Divinsky)" neither detract, nor add to the overall listening experience, making them cull worthy for a tighter, more cohesive set. Further, the expert soundscapes shaped by band members Adam Castaneda, Kevin Bernier, Jon Durbin, Michael Razo, Jose Luna, Patrick Kelly, and Nick Zamora sometimes surround a lyric revealing a track deserving of a more able pen to match its impactful musical caresses; such is the case with the blue “Sure to Remain” and the slightly cloying “Mammas.”

    “You Only Call” gives listeners an example of when the lyrics and music on Everything Here are beautifully married, with an infectious hook that arrests the ear and speaks to an all-too common experience. The hook’s repetition doesn’t irritate because the music supporting an undeniable melody and performance by Franklin keeps one wanting even more from the song just as it ends. Far from done, the Gulf Coast band gloriously follows it up with “Won’t Be Here Tomorrow,” a wailing gospel-tinged dirge that finds everyone taking their time and letting the song’s emotions and sound breathe and build in ways reminiscent of Joe Cocker’s take of The Beatles classic, “With A Little Help From My Friends.” These main dishes round out an overall solid banquet in which everything on the musical buffet is indeed here, a spectrum of musical ideas from the memorably filling to that which is diet worthy of editing from the plate. All of it feels fairly signature for a band that’s definitely solidified its own unique “Gulf Soul” sound. Recommended.

    By L. Michael Gipson

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