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St. Paul and the Broken at Ziggy’s

Theological doctrine requires that two posthumous miracles be performed in order to receive canonization, but there’s a sensible enough explanation for how Paul Janeway of the titular eponym in Alabama soul powerhouses St. Paul & the Broken Bones earned his. For one, he performs miracles every single time he sets foot on stage with a voice that might as well be dubbed the ‘Soul Train’ and moves that are ripped straight from James Brown’s “American Bandstand” debut. The latter is made all the more impressive by the fact that Janeway doesn’t exactly fit the type of a soul superstar; he looks more fit for balancing books than busting a Camel Walk.

So that’s two miracles. What about the posthumous part? It could be ascertained from watching him and hearing him that Paul Janeway simply isn’t human to begin with. The way Janeway delivered the Broken Bones original “I’m Torn Up” when he and his band played Ziggy’s on Thursday night made every note feel like a wrecking ball, rippling through the thick of the nearly sold-out crowd. His stunning, sweat-soaked showmanship at least seemed to have originated from somewhere beyond the corporeal realms. He’s a former student of religion, raised in the Deep South church who cut his teeth on Gospel, so he’s certainly communing with some holy ghost.

It might be the ghost of Solomon Burke or Sam Cooke, however, both of whom he channeled openly Thursday. Janeway and his dynamite six-piece backing band (literally, Hammond B3 player Al Gamble cut his soul teeth with Charles Walker & the Dynamites) took on Sam Cooke’s “Shake”, but in the more familiar style of the Otis Redding version. He chewed up the stage on Solomon Burke’s “Down In the Valley”, even more larger than life than the portly Burke himself was. Though it didn’t need to, the formula didn’t vary dramatically. The French Quarter swagger of “Make It Rain” was an exception, and the cover of Wings “Let Me Roll It” handed the spotlight over to guitarist Browan Lollar’s crunchy riffage.

Their brief catalog is also still missing the kind of remarkable hooks that fellow masterfully-fronted Alabamans the Alabama Shakes wield, but part of that is due to the fact that Janeway’s incomparable pipes stay at 11; you’re almost too dazzled by his sheer ability to immerse yourself in songcraft. Sure, he could bring the pieces down some and let his audiences into a multisensory experience, but when you can wail like this, what is there to turn down for? !

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