With Keep On Climbin’, West Side Joe & The Men Of Soul give us a survey of soul music’s past. Each track is just a little bit different from the others, and each approaches the genre from slightly different angles, yet all are authentic, and all are good.
The album’s title track goes all the way back to pre-soul, which is churchy gospel, complete with a congregational handclapping rhythm. “Man Down” also escalates to a similar gospel groove toward the end. “Raindrop Don’t Care” is also gospel-inspired, only it’s slower and colored by piano and organ, and features a gospel quartet-like backing vocal.
One track that’s distinctly different from all the rest is “Colorado Mama.” It’s driven by amplified electric slide guitar and harmonica. This one, unlike the rest, is a straight up blues workout. “I Can’t Lose” is also closer to a blues track, only this one is slower and sadder. Another one, titled “When You Get The Chance,” sounds like a direct descendant of Fats Domino’s pioneering rock & roll because of its beautifully pounding piano part.
You might be surprised to learn that the three members of this act are all white. However, Joe was raised in Memphis, TN, which helps explain his natural way with all types of black music. The act applies the motto, ‘Does it feel good?’ whenever deciding on what to play. That’s a great as well as apt description of the music on this album. Complicated math rock, for instance, might be impressive and progressive, but it probably wouldn’t feel nearly has fine as laying down a sweet groove. There are no complex time signatures on this release; only tracks that bring on soothing feelings of satisfaction with each listen.
STREAMING (Track #3 “Vacate My Heart”):
This album, although it feels like Memphis, was actually recorded in Colorado. The group brough in many Colorado luminaries to help create this project. And just to keep that Memphis connection, Dawn Hopkins (who used to run live sound for Mr. Shaft himself, Isaac Hayes), helped mix the album.
Although much of this music is gospel-inspired, it isn’t an especially religious offering. For instance, the album’s title track has more to do with keeping a positive attitude, more than getting religious in the face of difficult circumstances. We need to keep pushing on, or else we regress, right? Nevertheless, the song “Keep On Climbin’” would still sound right at home during a Sunday morning church service.
West Side Joe & The Men Of Soul has given us the music we all need to hear right now. These days, with all the lockdowns, it’s increasingly difficult to find reasons to feel good. If nothing else, this album’s music may make you forget all the problems in the world. This style of music has comforted men and women for generations, and it’s lost none of the power to soothe the soul. Maybe you’re not a churchgoer. No worries, though, this music has all the joy of a Sunday church service, without the religious overtones. With its album, West Side Joe & The Men Of Soul sure make Colorado sound like downhome Memphis.