Julius Pittman (in hat) & The Revival: Hold on, they’re comin’!

That Sweet Soul Music
By David McGee

Julius Pittman & The Revival
Maeco Management

Do you like good music? That sweet soul music? Just as long as it’s swingin’? Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah!

Spotlight on Julius Pittman now. Don’t he look boss, y’all? Singin’ “Tired of Being Alone.” Oh, yeah, oh, yeah…

With apologies to Arthur Conley, the lyrics of his Otis Redding-produced 1968 smash hit come back with a rush when Julius Pittman & The Revival’s Bucket List gets cued up. These fellows are an octet of seasoned soul practitioners from down Virginia way who play like they were to Muscle Shoals born. This is, bar none, the best white soul band to emerge since Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, and it has a similar lineup, horns and all, and in Pittman a gritty, intense, driving lead singer who can spit fire on the grinders and caress a ballad with unusual sensitivity to mood and meaning. The folks at the shore in Virginia, and farther south, in the Carolinas, know what’s going on here—JP & The Revival are right on time to assume a spot in the hierarchy of contemporary Beach Music bands (see last month’s article on Beach Music for reference). They’re also right on time to continue fueling a bubbling under revival of classic soul styles, a la Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and Otis Taylor, among a few select others. One listen to the syncopated wonders of the horn- and organ-fueled workout from the Jack Mack & The Heart Attack songbook, “Don’t Need No Reason,” will drive you deeper and more eagerly into Bucket List, if you weren’t already inspired to do so by the preceding album opening cut, a slinky take on Al Green’s “Tired of Being Alone” snaking its way out of Memphis, heading for Muscle Shoals while Pittman’s nasally, pleading vocal and those shadowing stabs of horns retain the sensuous allure of the Reverend Green’s definitive take, but adding some tasty solos courtesy muted flugelhorn (Dave Triplett, presumably) and a wailing tenor sax. (Nice touch at the fadeout, too, as Pittman groans about how he “can’t get next to you,” another tip of the hat to our Al, whose “I Can’t Get Next To You” substituted a cool, persistent, expressed longing in place of the Temptations’ blistering heat); similarly, a bopping take on Albert Collins’s “A Good Fool Is Hard To Find” retains the pulsating, horn-fueled soundscape of the Iceman’s original (with guitarist Randy Moss deserving a hearty applause for his stinging but fatter-toned Iceman-centric solo), as Pittman delivers his straight-faced admission of being a more gullible, and therefore more desirable, consort for his woman with wry humor.

But Bucket List isn’t about what a great cover band can do when it’s on. An inspired songwriter with a gift for straight talk, Pittman contributes five delectable originals among the nine tracks, ranging from the insistently pumping ode to friends with benefits, “Part Time Lover”; to the sensuous, driving “Your Love Changes Like the Weather,” a rich declaration of fidelity to an unpredictable lover that cruises along at a midtempo gait behind a horn section alternately jittery and bleeting, and Moss’s shifting guitar textures; to “Love Came Out of Nowhere,” a beautiful soul ballad, churchy in its deep, somber organ base and Moss’s quiet, tumbling guitar riff that soon make room for the horns to surge in and recede softly from the soundscape, as Pittman divests himself of his most heartfelt and deeply dramatic vocal on the record as he works up to tear-stained supplication, both in gratitude to a woman who showed him affection he could never have imagined existed, and in beseeching her to come back to him—that’s the twist, in the beauty of the opening sentiments gradually being revealed as past tense as the singer makes a last, desperate effort to save the relationship. Thus the world as we know it, people making up and breaking up, and in Bucket List Julius Pittman & The Revival offer some memorable advice on how to rally through it all. Timeless advice, delivered in a timeless style. Hold on, they’re comin’!

Julius Pittman & The Revival’s Bucket List is available at www.amazon.com

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024