It’s safe to say that soul music has been experiencing a major revival the last few years. The rise of independent labels like Loveland, Ohio’s Colemine Records or Brooklyn’s Daptone Records has produced an abundance of new top-shelf acts, from Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Charles Bradley to Monophonics and Durand Jones and the Indications. With her debut album on Magnaphone Records, Dayton, Ohio’s Heather Redman is another name you can add to that list. With The Reputation, her firecracker band made up of Dayton music scene veterans, Redman crafts bluesy soul anthems that sound both timeless and modern.
Redman is no stranger to the Dayton music scene. She’s been a long-time member of roots-rockers Neo American Pioneers, and has taken a more active role in the group’s songwriting in recent years. With The Reputation, Redman emphasizes the blues and soul elements of her style, while still leaving plenty of garage-rock grit in the arrangements. Producers Patrick Himes and David Payne (the latter of country-rockers The New Old Fashioned and Redman’s husband) give the record a wide-open but organic sound, clearly separating each of the band’s instruments while laying on just the right amount of reverb, echo, and distortion.
Redman’s vocal chops are impressive, with plenty of power to make herself heard over the band’s groovy racket. Opener “Everybody,” a blues-inflected waltz, sets the tone, each verse building towards the one-word refrain, while follow-up “Step Back Girl” effectively blends early 60s girl-group pop with late 60s Motown R&B. While the record is a mostly energetic affair, there are a few quieter moments where Redman’s vocals are more expressive, like the organ-drenched ballad “Tryin’,” where the singer offers encouragement to those who are struggling—a message just as relevant in 2022 as it would have been in 1972. The album’s best moment, though, is the stunning “Wait For Me,” a track that sounds like The Band hooked up in the studio with The Supremes.
At just under a half hour, Heather Redman and the Reputation doesn’t waste any space. Each of its eight songs is memorable and will keep you coming back for more. Even though it’s dropping right before the end of the year, it will definitely be earning a spot in my best of 2022 list. And if you’re a fan of classic or modern soul and R&B, it should earn a spot in your collection too.
“Wait For Me” / “Everybody” / “Tryin’”
ARTISTS WITH SIMILAR FIRE
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings / Etta James / Kendra Morris
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