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Album Review: Curtis Harding – Soul Power

2 min read

The son of a peripatetic, gospel-singing evangelist and a veteran, Curtis Harding was raised on the sweaty, gritty sounds of soul, blues, and R&B permeated with heavenly church harmonies. Eventually setting in Atlanta, the Michigan-born musician sang backup for both OutKast and Cee Lo Green, while immersing himself in the garage rock scene through collaborative project Night Sun with Cole Alexander, guitarist of garage punk band Black Lips. The versatile artist fuses the emotional intensity of classic soul and R&B with the strut of garage and punk rock in his debut album Soul Power, an effort he christened “slop ‘n’ soul”. His flagrant and wonderful disregard for genre boundaries found the perfect home in eclectic and nurturing label Burger Records.

Curtis Harding Soul PowerOpening track Next Time epitomises the album’s virility. A cutting tale of heartbreak and blistering optimism, the track features Harding’s melodic Stratocaster, smoky drawl and walking bass played out by the malleable grooves of a Hammond. Castaway is an exceptional example of blues-writing, carried by Harding’s magnetic vocals, shaped by the perfect amount of reverb.

Lead single Keep On Shining’s horns and shimmering guitars evoke spirited Spinners-inspired classic R&B, whose incessant beat will render any listener restless. Harding’s glorious falsetto shines in Freedom and I Need A Friend, while his penchant for indie rock emerges in Surf, amid shredding guitar (played by band mate Cole Alexander), and I Don’t Wanna Go Home, whose ‘90s-kissed garage rock turns coastal with crooning backing vocals.

The stomping blues of Drive My Car and Cruel World are awash with churning guitars, stomping bass and Harding’s gritty, impassioned vocal delivery. Shrouded in political and spiritual nuances, Beautiful People sees Harding display the charisma of an enigmatic preacher insisting: “listen up beautiful people/you got to stand up or die”. While Heaven’s On The Other Side explores the glimmering, flashy optimism of disco.

Soul Power’s adventurous marrying of classic and contemporary with swagger and sensuality injects a particular energy into the current alternative music scene. Harding transforms stirring stories of hardship into something beautiful and tangible, which will be the foundation of an undoubtedly long and prolific future career.