A tight ensemble with a gospel-tinged, retro-soul sound complete with horns and a dynamic lead singer in Paul Janeway, Birmingham, Alabama's St. Paul & the Broken Bones' stirring live shows quickly garnered them a fan following when the band began performing publicly in 2012. They made their recording debut in 2014 with Half the City, an album that echoed the Stax and Muscle Shoals records of the late '60s and early '70s. The group only expanded their sound as they delved into more socially conscious and personal material featuring more sophisticated production on albums such as 2018's Young Sick Camellia.
Founded in Birmingham in August of 2011, the original lineup of St. Paul & the Broken Bones consisted of Janeway, Browan Lollar (guitar, vocals), Jesse Phillips (bass), Andrew Lee (drums and percussion), Allen Branstetter (trumpet), and Ben Griner (trombone and tuba). The sextet self-released the 2012 EP Greetings from St. Paul and the Broken Bones, which led to a record deal with Single Lock Records. The label issued their full-length debut, Half the City, early in 2014, and it reached number 56 on the Billboard 200 as well as charting in the Netherlands.
Recorded in Birmingham in 2013, the EP Live and in Person!!! also appeared in 2014, with Live from the Alabama Theatre following a year later. The Broken Bones' sophomore studio LP took on a more socially conscious tone and added a string quartet and choir to the palette. It also saw the group expand to an octet with Al Gamble on keys, Jason Mingledorff on woodwinds, and Chad Fisher replacing Griner on trombone. Titled Sea of Noise, it was released in 2016 on Records, a label newly founded by veteran music exec Barry Weiss and Songs Music Publishing. It reached the U.S. Top 50, peaking at number 44.
Featuring more contemporary arrangements, and production by Jack Splash (Kendrick Lamar, Solange), the group's third studio album, Young Sick Camellia, pushed them under the neo-soul umbrella without abandoning '60s and '70s influences. With Amari Ansari taking over on woodwinds, it arrived in 2018, also on Records. ~ Steve Leggett & Marcy Donelson