Album Review: Ralph “Soul” Jackson’s The Alabama Love Man EP

Ralph “Soul” Jackson

The Alabama Love Man EP

The Rabbit Factory Records

Release Date: October 2, 2012

 

Track Listing

1.     Can’t Leave Your Love Alone

2.     You’ve Been Very Good to Me

3.     Searching

4.     For Just One Second

5.     Vehicle

6.     Somewhere In This World

7.     There Must Be A Reason

8.     I’ll Take Care of You

 

As a music blogger and journalist, I get inundated with emails from publicists at PR firms and labels, and from truly independent artists without PR teams and labels behind then, and because of that it is easy to automatically dismiss about half of the things that come across your inbox. So when I came across a PR email announcing the release of Ralph “Soul” Jackson’s The Alabama Love Man EP, I had to check it out. Shit, if your nickname is “soul,” you had to earn it, and that alone is impressive. In any case, Jackson’s story is probably one of the most interesting stories I’ve come across in the last few years, and much like that of Sharon Jones, his story is one of persistence.

   Jackson hails from Phenix City, Alabama, a rural town just across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, Georgia, which was coincidentally the site of the last battle of the Civil War. Back when Jackson was a teenager, this corner of Alabama was known as the Las Vegas of the Deep South. The town’s main drag lined on both sides with clubs became such a hotbed of organized crime that there were city ordinances calling for a weekly drag of the Chattahoochee. Jackson began sneaking into Phenix City’s clubs and learned how to turn a crowd out and perhaps more importantly how to thrill the ladies. After hearing Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett on the radio, he began writing songs and sent a demo to Rick Hall at FAME. Hall was impressed and brought Jackson down to the legendary Muscle Shoals Studios, christened him “Soul” and recorded his debut back in 1965. With over 50 years as a performer, Jackson had been a bit of a local and regional legend but The Alabama Love Man EP is his long overdue national (and hopefully international) coming out party. And in many ways, the EP comes around with some uncannily perfect timing, as soul music has seen a recent resurgence. Acts such as Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, who have been at it for close to 20 years comes to mind, but contemporary acts such as DeRobert and the Half-Truths, the Right Now, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, Charles Bradley, and others come to mind.

   In an age of pre-packaged, overly processed, slickly produced soulless, mass produced music, soul music is a perfect antithesis: you have real human vocals that aren’t Auto Tuned to be the point of sounding mechanical, and musicians playing real instruments. Much like the punk revolution, this soul resurgence is a little bit reactionary but lovingly so. After all, I can’t think of many genres of music that convey so many different emotions simultaneously. And in the case of Ralph “Soul” Jackson, he brings to mind memories of old school love songs – and I mean songs about loving a good woman and treating her right, not songs about one night stands. “I’ll Take Care of You” is a sweet, sincere vow to take care of your lady through thick and thin, and it sounds like it can easily be a wedding song.

  Sonically, Jackson will probably draw comparisons to Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Al Green – seductively crooned vocals, sung as though they’re sung directly to you; big, booming horns and throbbing bass are just expected. Unlike most contemporary male singers who seem to sing with a nasal, emasculated whine, Jackson’s voice comes manly and supremely confident without a trace of arrogance. What’s obvious to me is that Jackson is a charismatic, larger than life sort personality who could charm and seduce just about anyone – and in an almost effortless manner. Indeed, love songs about love are sorely missing these days, and the songs on this album will make you think about love – in the old school sense. Honestly, it’s the sort of album that you and your parents will love because it’s good natured and not embarrassingly filthy. They’re straightforward and sincere love songs, the sort of songs the modern world needs a lot more of.