BRIAN OWENS and the DEACONS OF SOUL: Soul Of Ferguson (Nia Music)

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Brian Owens is a US soul man who is proud to hail from Ferguson, Missouri. Sadly the little town was little-known till 2014 when Michael Brown was shot dead by police… an incident that sparked off the whole Black Lives Matter movement. The tragic events of 2014 hang heavily over this album, indeed one of the set’s key cuts – ‘Prayer For My Children’, was inspired directly by Brown’s killing. Owens says: “I wrote this song as part of a suite after that tragic moment that happened in 2014. I was thinking about how I’m raising my kids at a time when things like this are happening. If anything happens to me, I want them to know exactly how I feel about God and exactly how I feel about their mother. This song is very specific about these things: ‘Colour and country don’t define who you are. God’s love is the only thing that sets each one of us apart but binds us together'”. Those sentiments could, of course, have come right of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ and Owens’ opus pays musical homage to the Gaye classic… check out the sensual sax, the layered harmonies, the passionate vocals. You’ll quickly agree it’s one powerful soul song!

Elsewhere the song that’s been garnering attention is the 70’s flavoured ‘For You’. This song’s USP is the presence of another son of Ferguson, Michael McDonald, helping out on vocals. Together they create a kind of Tommy Sims (remember him?) jam but there are plenty more gems on the concise nine tracker. ‘Pretty Fine Thing’ is another winner… a musical outpouring about the joy of love (think dear Curtis Mayfield). ‘So High’ is another properly lovely soul tune… full of 60s feel but with a truly contemporary edge. ‘When A Grown Man Cries’ has an authentic southern soul feel to it (you’d guess that by the title wouldn’t you?) while ‘Benediction’ and the brief ‘Outro’ are looser… free soul actually. Throughout, the wonderfully named Deacons of Soul offer testifying support underpinning the convincing vocals and messages of their leader, Brian Owens, a singer who knows his soul history. Throughout he’s his own man but it’s clear he treasures the memories and music of Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. If you doubt his love of MPG, just check the cover pic!

(BB) 4/5