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Soulmates' "Big Trouble" CD Release Party
@ Brew Baker's, June 13, 1998
by Jim Halloran
"There's a party goin' on right here" and, as usual, with the Soulmates, that was the atmosphere for their CD release party at Brew Bakers on June 13th. The place was festive, the people had come, fans from far and near, and after a fine opening set by Flux Deluxe, it was time . . . "Big Trouble" time, a.k.a. Soulmates. Hereby English, MC extraordinaire, took center stage to introduce the band and now it was time to hear what these guys are all about!

SHOWTIME, and with the intent of highlighting the new 'all originals' CD, "Big Trouble," they opened with "Can't Run, Can't Hide." The boys were in high stride with this Johnny ‘O song, and the preface was set . . . When you come to see the Soulmates, they're gonna have as much fun as you! The crowd flowed to the dance floor like a swollen river to hear Wilbur do his 'Tell Somebody" and the band came on with a fabulous solo by Johnny and back-up harmonic vocals that added a luster to the growl of how it feels to love somebody. Following "Ain't to proud to Beg", a cover that makes you just want to take Wilbur home with you for a happy fix, came "Talkin' About," a slow melodic scorcher with words to live by and guitar so fine. Tom Donnohue stepped up next to tell about a "Good Lookin' Woman" and prove that drummers, good ones, can write some fine music too. The B-3 was about to bellow on "Don't Wanna Love You Anymore." Written by Johnny ‘0, you can feel the SRV influence, but one done the S/M way -- it really grabs you. Tom and Wilbur teamed up for "Rain Sometime" and I gotta tell you . . . duet now has a new definition! The first set closed out with "Stagger Lee" and "Grapevine". Simply said, every blues house loves 'familiar', and nobody, but nobody, does 'familiar' like Wilbur Cole. His heart, his soul his smile, his band.... NOBODY!

Set two ignited with Johnny's "Give Me One Day." The guitar is there, even the strap . . . it ain't him. . . never could be. . . but don't close your eyes! Speaking of him, "Mary had a Little Lamb" was next and my happy feet forced me to the dance floor. Watching Johnny and Wilbur do an incredible interplay of 'you do this, so can I ' was one of the highlights of the evening. Strat vs. B-3, and it was a draw! My dancing partner and myself invited an older member of Wilbur's family to join us, and the man was a smilin' inspiration, with happier feet than mine. I asked him the cause and he raised his hand to the sky, shook it, and pointed at Wilbur and Johnny..... And they call it the Blues!

I don't know where Wilbur's thoughts were when he wrote the next song, but if you love gut wrenching blues to the max, you have it delivered, musical silver platter style, on "Don't Cry." The voice, the words, Johnny's wailing guitar, Bill's pumping bass, and Tom's crystal clear percussion all together to make this one a gem!

A reunion of sorts followed as Steve Vonderharr joined the boys for the next three songs. Steve, the Soulmates former harpist and singer, who left to raise a family, was a pleasant addition to 'I'm Ready", "Mississippi Soupbone" (from their first CD), and "Walk'n the Dog." The connection was alive and well.

Another cut off the new CD "Give UP on Love" was next and then as bar time renders there was time for one more. And it was worth the wait! "Big Trouble" exploded and brought every highlight of the band together. Wilbur's soul searching vocals, along with the persona on the B-3 are a sight to behold and a chilling scat to the ear. This upbeat Chicago Boogie Blues Rocker has Johnny at his best with some finger lickin' guitar work that will leave you spellbound. Bill's bass is thundering as Tom's skin work is, pounding at a heartbreaker pace. If this song doesn't 'shoot your boogie', man there ain't nothin' will! ... And they had as much fun as we did... A perfect ·night-capper!

I should mention that Scott Ludden, the Soulmates soundman, produced, recorded, and mixed "Big Trouble" at First Generation Studios. No one could have caught the energy, the quality, and the emotion that the Soulmates bring together better than he did on this fine disc.

You know, we're blessed in this area with fabulous clubs: The Baker, Junction, B-Saloon, Cabooze, Dave's, Line, Fox. Biscuits, and Gary's just to name a few. We've had and have the players: Lynwood, RJ, Lament, Prime Time, Lonnie, Joel, Willie, Mick, Kid, R&G, Wilbur, Johnny, Doug, Lazy, Kurt, Joe, Paul, and the list goes on and on. However, a thought comes to mind; "Big Trouble" may spell just that for an old blues standard... So wadda ya think.... "Sweet Home...TWIN CITIES!!! So, Ride Sally ride, and let your love light shine! Cuz nobody does it like Wilbur Cole and the rest of the Soulmates. Buy the disc, check 'em out live, but don't think about adopting Wilbur. . . cuz I already have!!!

This review is copyright © 1998 by Jim Halloran, all rights reserved.

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Copyright © 1998 by Ray M. Stiles
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