Soul Relief in rotation
A little record store in Greensboro is putting the needle to the groove in more ways than one, hosting shows and squeezing as much soul as possible into the teeny space on Chapman Street.
Owned and operated by Harley Lyles, the titular “Soul Relief” stems from his short-lived show on WUAG in the early ’00s. ”It was a way for me to get out of the house and play records I otherwise would be playing alone at home,” Lyles said of the mission he’s carried from his basement to his storefront.
“I specialize in a little bit of everything, whether it’s old rockabilly 45s, Billy Joel albums or rare jazz.” It’s the treasure of the hunt Lyles lives for. And he’s done enough living in that regard to literally stock a store
“My real obsession started with hunting down records to sample and make beats with,” Lyles explained. “Then the accumulation led to too many records, and I had to start selling things off.”
The result is a groovy snapshot where folks can both shop from, and contribute to, a collection in action. It’s a labor of love which helps Lyles be open to more than just slinging records.
In its short run, Soul Relief shows have hosted hometown punks, jazz heads, classic Triad nu goths, weirdo alterna-freaks, and few heavy-hitter touring bands.
“The live shows just fell into my lap, and I obliged,” Lyles said. “Bands have come in expecting a big PA and all that, which we don’t have,” he added with a laugh. But barebones spaces can hold promise, and Soul Relief goes to show how much fun laissez-faire can be.
“We didn’t even know a record store was hiding back there until we were asked to play,” said Totally Slow who opened for Australian punkers, Orion, in October.
“Nathaniel really knocked it outta the park with that one,” Lyles said of the Fantasy punk who booked the show. “They were young, energetic, and really into records,” Lyles added. “Their driver was really into vintage 45s. We had a blast.”
The warmth of records goes beyond the stereo, as was the case with the Soul Relief’s first in-store performance of 2019 with Eugene Chadbourne. “He’s the kind of artist I champion,” Lyles said, “those who make their own way, creating their own sound.”
“Chadbourne sold me part of his blues collection, and part of the deal was him performing,” Lyles added. “I was flattered.”
Good nature tends to breed a good environment.
“Harley is really welcoming,” said Harrison Ford Mustang, who recently played the shop with Swartzwelder and Pennsylvania punkers, Church Girls.
Swartzwelder agreed. “It has a cool, relaxed, local vibe that everyone seemed to enjoy, and Harley was super-nice and passionate about the music scene.”
That passion made an impression on Church Girls during their national tour stop. The group spoke to Swartzwelder about the rarity of smaller, more intimate spaces these days. ”It’s cool that we have a spot like this in Greensboro,” they said.
Soul Relief is a business, sure, but one which seems focused on more than just the almighty dollar.
“It’s good to see the tradition of a weird, little record store flourishing,” said Ammoron from Winston’s J.D. Power and the Associates (who played the store’s opening day). “And Harley does a great job at curating. I didn’t even know Richard Petty made a record!”
Lyles is indeed a jukebox of both choice records and knowledge—not just of the musical variety. The small shop is adorned with posters from bygone Greensboro and Lyles at the ready, dropping bombs of trivia and conversation.
“I just try to provide an educational experience,” he said. “I hope when you share what you love, it gives shoppers a good time.”
“So much of why I got into it is based on always having new records to listen and share,” Lyles added, regarding what he calls “the endless quest” in record collecting.
“I eased into selling records, and although it was painful to sell off records I really loved, I chose to make it my livelihood,” he noted. “But I’ve met so many more local and foreign collectors that turned me onto new stuff over this past year. The payoff is immeasurable.”
With a few coast-to-coast surprises in the works, Soul Relief is, according to Lyles, “just getting started.”
Katei Cranford is a Triad music nerd who hosts the Tuesday Tour Report, a radio show that runs like a mixtape of bands touring through N.C. the following week, 5-7p.m. on WUAG 103.1 FM.
Soul Relief Records (934-A S. Chapman St) is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from noon-to-6 p.m.