EDITOR’S NOTE: In December, we like to take a look back at albums we didn’t get around to reviewing earlier in the year. Pressure was released in August.
The sound is ’70s era Philly soul. But with The Commonheart vocalist Clinton Clegg’s muscular lead, it’s like Wilson Pickett fronting The Delphonics. He doesn’t have Pickett’s panther scream, but he’s got that raw, gritty soul growl that lets you know something dangerous is lurking within striking distance. It’s a horn-heavy sound, but never overpowering — just enough brass to punch it up without driving it into the ground.
And even though the main feel of their second album, Pressure, is classic ’70s Philly mellow soul, The Commonheart puts a sharper edge on it courtesy of Mike Minda’s guitar on cuts like the title song, grinding and slashing away.
The Pittsburgh-based nine-piece outfit can do funk pretty good as well. Shawn McGregor’s laid-back but solidly-in-the-pocket drumbeats guide “Do Right,” with Clegg testifying like a revival preacher on his last night in town, going all out to recruit volunteers to go forth and do good. But Minda throws a changeup in his mix with his Allman-esque guitar solo before Clegg steps back up to pour a bucket of churchy soul on top.
“Different Man” serves up a cultural musical mix of The Delphonics, Chicago, and Pickett, with a whisper of Memphis soul darting in and out.
It sounds like Sly and the Family Stone are hip-checking Chicago for space on “Show Me to the Light” till Minda comes by snapping out barbed-wire licks that clear everybody out of the way.
Clegg’s crusty grave-dirt gargle is at its best on “Wait,” proclaiming that he’s no angel, no saint, just the one who’ll wait, backed by an angelic trio of vocalists Mariko Reid, Kenny Stockard, and Michael DeLuca.
In recent years, there’s been a slew of young soul revivalists spurred by bands like The Daptones who recreate the spirit of ’70s soul without making an exact copy of the style. Put The Commonheart at the top of that list. They pay soulful tribute to the soul gods without disrespecting their exhumed remains.