Michigan’s The Soul Syndicate keeping ‘classic soul’ alive and well

| April 26, 2016

1 All of You Album CoverFrost Staff Review

Let’s just be straight up and raw: It’s nice to hear love songs that come from the heart and soul rather than the groin. That distinction is what separates classic soul and R&B group The Soul Syndicate from much of today’s crowd.

Formed in 2014, The Soul Syndicate made its debut to a standing room only crowd at The Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids, Mich., and has kept the quintessential soul train moving forward.  Performing  in the Greater Grand Rapids area at Billy’s Lounge, Tip Top Deluxe and The B.O.B. to the Lakeshore in Holland,Mich., and Grand Haven, Mich., to various casinos the band has quickly become one of the most acclaimed in that area, as evidence by the group’s multiple nominations in Grand Rapids’ prestigious annual Jammies Award presentation. The group scored four nominations:

• Best New Artist;

• Best Blues/Soul Album for their debut EP “All of You;”

• Song of the Year for “You Might Say I’m In Love,” and

• Best Production/Engineering by Diego Morales and Mike Coon—the two cofounders and producers of the group.

The Soul Syndicate

The Soul Syndicate

Priding themselves in providing authentic renditions of some of the best Classic Soul and R&B (Motown, Stax, Atco and Chess labels to name a few), The Soul Syndicate has garnered a reputation as being one of the most dynamic and entertaining live bands in the region.

What could be deemed as a regional supergroup, the band is comprised of members who have all played in local popular bands: The Soulz of Rhythm, Deborah Kay and The Blue Bloods, River City Stew, Domestic Problems, The Machines and more renowned Midwest music groups

Diego M. is captured “delivering the word” in a concert by renowned photographer Tim Motley.

A vision shared between guitarist Mike Coon and vocalist/frontman Diego M., The Soul Syndicate quickly took shape and started to harness the power of “sweet soul music.” In the mold of classic soul groups, the band is comprised of a powerful rhythm and horn section, which includes Coon on guitar, Diego M. on vocals, Tom Taylor on drums, Matt Fouts on bass, Mark Mainero on keyboard, Tim DenBesten on trumpet, Dan Glacobassi on sax and Jim Hayward on sax.

In addition to earning a growing reputation as a compelling live act, The Soul Syndicate’s six-cut debut EP “All of You” captures the group’s mastery of the classic soul sound and spotlights singer Diego M’s formidable skills not only as a vocalist but also as a thoughtful, sensitive and soulful writer. By his own admission, the “heart” and feel of these originals hearken back to a time when soul music rested on a solid foundation of a universal love—a love that could honor the Creator, humanity and the community as well as the love between a man and a woman. In each case, it’s a love with depth that speaks of bonds at the soul level as in the opening track “Child of the Storm,” a lovely tribute to someone who has gone off track from time to time, looking for the only healing force—love—and finding it in someone who truly is their with support, encouragement and care. It’s an uplifting piece with an easy striding feel that makes you smile, knowing that trouble don’t last always.

“Baby Come Back to Me” is one of those soulful midtempo, pleading songs with just the right pace to deliver the pain of a broken heart in a manner that a lost love can hear every word. A climbing horn line supports a brief, soaring guitar solo in the middle to add some extra soul spice. That’s followed by “You Might Say I’m In Love,” a true ballad befitting the lament of a man trying to get himself together and trying to solve a dilemma: Do I maintain this “best friend” relationship with a woman who is always there to talk with or do I tell her I love her and want to make this something else. And, the woman answers, thinking the same thing. The track is punctuated throughout by a tasteful saxophone that final takes off at the end as the rhythm moves from ballad to straight up swinging jazz for the fade.

“Girl I Wish” has that easy going feel reminiscent of  Mel & Tim’s best work (think “Backfield In Motion” as a groove but with a theme of regret) while the title track “All of You” has some serious funk, with sound that seems influenced by James Brown, Dyke & the Blazers, a bit of Arthur Conley… you get the drift. The horn lines on this track are absolutely fun.

The record closes with the rock-inflected “I’m a Man” that’s reminiscent of classic bands like Chase, Ides of March and maybe a little early Blood, Sweat & Tears. All and all, the record is a fine demonstration of classic (note we did not say OLD SCHOOL!) R&B.

Again, the band is excellent throughout recalling the sounds of yesteryear that still reach deep inside the listener to move the heart, mind and soul. The playing is tight but the feeling is loose—just like it should be with a soul band. And, pulling all together is Diego M who always sings like he means every word. A veteran performer, those who heard him in the early days of his career, some decade ago said they were stunned to hear this “jazz” singer who seemed to be equal parts Sinatra and Sam Cooke. The Sam Cooke is still there but, in this setting, the Sinatra influence seems to have been replaced by folks like Bobby Womack in sound and Curtis Mayfield in theme. This is a group that would sound right at home on one of the new classic soul labels like Daptone, home to this era’s real classic soul stars like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, the Sugarman 3 and the stone cold monster soulman Charles Bradley to name a few. Who knows? Maybe some day…

Check out The Soul Syndicate at www.facebook.com/Thesoulsyndicate or www.reverbnation.com/thesoulsyndicate; or at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/thesoulsyndicate.

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Category: Arts, Entertainment, Features

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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