Recording information: All Over Houston, TX; Church House Studio, Austin, TX; Converse Rubber Tracks Studio, Austin, TX; Hoover Sound, Houston, TX; Wire Road Studios, Houston, TX.
Photographer: Chad Wadsworth.
With their sizable membership and prominent horn section, the Suffers might look (and sometimes sound) like one of the many soul revival acts that have risen into public consciousness in the wake of the success of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, but a listen to the group's debut album makes it clear they're up to something a bit different. The Suffers documents a band whose music speaks to the past and the present at once; these ten musicians clearly have a soft spot for classic soul and R&B, but there's also a big portion of jazz, pop, classic rock, and reggae bubbling up in their music, and in some respects, this music harkens back to the era of adventurous rock bands with horn sections (like Blood, Sweat & Tears, 10 Wheel Drive, and Chicago in their prime) as much as mid-'60s soul. Vocalist Kam Franklin has a strong and versatile instrument, and she's capable of following all the twists and turns this music presents. The band seems happy to take advantage of the dynamic possibilities that a large ensemble offers, with the horns, keyboards, guitars, and percussion all getting their fair share of the arrangements. The Suffers' original songwriting is strong while also flattering the group's abilities. The gospel-tinged pleas of "Better," the easy soul-funk groove of "Make Some Room," the slinky and romantic insistence of "Peanuts," and the fusion-inspired workout of "Giver" are all marvelous showcases for the many sides of the Suffers' personality while also being memorable tunes in their own right. The Suffers are a pretty great band based on their debut album, but just as importantly, given that they produced and released this set themselves, they're savvy enough to know how to present themselves in a way that works to their advantage. The Suffers have a bright future ahead of them if this first effort is any indication of their capabilities. ~ Mark Deming