Review: St. Paul & The Broken Bones break new ground

By Brent Thompson

Since forming over a decade ago, the Birmingham, Ala.-based octet St. Paul & The Broken Bones has been known for putting a modern spin on the classic soul/R&B sounds of yesteryear. Though the band has not lost its grit or its fire, the recently-released Angels In Science Fiction (ATO Records) finds Paul Janeway and company breaking new stylistic ground. Hatched as Janeway wrote letters to his then-unborn child, the album’s caution of the perilous world that lies ahead is palpable in its music. From the swampy “Oporto-Madrid Blvd.” to the hypnotic “City Federal Building” to the stripped-down “South Dakota,” there is an underlying tension that contrasts from the band’s previous catalog. Recorded in Memphis at Sam Phillips Recording Studio and produced by Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Old Crow Medicine Show, John Prine), the album has a timeless quality – sonically, it could have been recorded last year or 40 years ago and that’s a good thing. Angels In Science Fiction is a healthy breakthrough that should find the band retaining its old fans and attracting new ones.