If they wanted to, St. Paul & The Broken Bones could be overwhelming. The Birmingham, Alabama band is an eight-piece group, including a three-piece horn section and a fiery singer, Paul Janeway, who can channel great soul men like Al Green. If they followed in the footsteps of soul-revue-style bands like Tower Of Power, they could be all-brass, all the time, blowing explosive horn lines in unison.
But the group is more subtle than that. Take a listen to their most recent album “Young Sick Camellia,” and you’ll hear that the horns accent the rhythm section rather than the other way around. The band leaves plenty of space in their songs — keeping things sparse, languid and funky on both the ballads and uptempo tunes.
“It’s about just letting the song breathe,” Janeway says. “I think that’s the hard thing with eight people in a band; it’s hard to create that space. But what’s great about the guys is that they ask themselves, ‘What’s for the betterment of the show? What’s the best situation?’ And you’ve got to create those quiet moments to make the loud moments mean something. If you just hit people over the head for an hour and a half, it loses its effect.”
It’s loose-limbed, effortlessly grooving music that seems born for the stage. Unfortunately, St. Paul & The Broken Bones hasn’t been able to do much live work until recently, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We played a couple of shows in March of 2020,” Janeway says, “and we didn’t play again til this past April. As far as full-on touring goes, it’s been a year and a half.”
The long break was scary professionally but satisfying personally for Janeway.
“Personally, I was able to be there when we had our first child,” Janeway says. “It was kind of nice because I got to be there the whole time, all throughout the pregnancy. That part was really great, but professionally there was so much uncertainty, you didn’t know what was going to happen next. You started going, ‘Do I need to find another job?’ You go through all of that.”
The downtime did give Janeway a chance to look back on all the band had accomplished during their near-decade-long rise; they’ve toured the world and their songs have appeared in multiple TV shows and films, including “Fifty Shades Of Grey,” “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Suits,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Black Lightning.”
“I’m a perpetual motion kind of person,” Janeway says, “and 2020 kind of forced me to reflect on the things we’ve gotten to do. And I’m not very good at that. We’ve gotten to do some pretty amazing things and when you’re in it, you’re just trying to get through it. So it definitely did give me a greater sense of appreciation for what we’ve accomplished.”
Luckily, the downtime is over and St. Paul & The Broken Bones are back out on the road. They’ll be playing at the Peace Center’s TD Stage on Friday night here in Greenville, and Alabama-boy Janeway says he’s looking forward to the outdoor show.
“It’s about just letting the song breathe,” Janeway says.
“When it’s a Southern night and it’s a little warm, it makes me feel more at home,” he says.
Regardless of where they’re playing, Janeway says he and the band are happier than ever to bring their rock, funk and soul music to the people.
“I feel very fortunate,” he says. “That time off definitely makes you appreciate it more.”
Award-winning columnist Vincent Harris has been covering the local music scene for the Greenville Journal since 2013.
If you go
Who: White Claw Concerts presents St. Paul & The Broken Bones w/ Old Sea Brigade
Where: TD Stage (Peace Center), 300 S. Main St., Greenville
When: Friday, July 23, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $50 (lawn), $70 (Genevieve’s)
Info: 864-467-3000, https://www.peacecenter.org/