The soul of Texas

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By Holly Crenshaw  

Our heroes say a lot about us. They establish our standards, define what we value, and give us a sense of what we aspire to. Storyville's heroes are legendary soul and blues artists -- the kinds of performers whose raw energy is rarely heard in today's often overly-produced music.

"We definitely wanted an old school type of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke kind of vocal on this album," said lead singer Malford Milligan. "To me, that stuff is like coming home."

For those who yearn for the classic R&B sounds of the '60s and '70s, Storyville's A Piece Of Your Soul will feel like coming home, too. Loose and self-assured, its eleven tracks percolate with an infectious blend of soul, gospel and Texas guitar rock. Some of that seasoned sound can be credited to the band members' own star-studded resumes. Drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon are both veterans of the Arc Angels and Stevie Ray Vaughn's Double Trouble. Guitarist David Grissom played with Joe Ely and John Mellencamp, while Dave Holt -- Storyville's "other" guitar player -- performed with the Mavericks and Carlene Carter.

The band's only relative newcomer is vocalist Milligan, described by The Austin Chronicle as "the most amazing male singer in Austin -- bar none." And it's true.

"Nowadays, a lot of black music is really melodic," he says. "But Otis and Sam and Stevie Wonder and the Isley Brothers, who were all real big influences on me, were almost staccato singers. They'd leave these gaping holes where nothing was said, just the music, and then they'd come back in, so whenever they said something, you'd hear it, and you'd feel it, and it felt good."

Whether coaxing the heartbreak out of a blues ballad like "Cynical," or propelling listeners onto their feet with the funk-based title track, Storyville does its heroes proud, and claims a rightful place among their ranks.

Holly Crenshaw, a long-time staff writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, writes frequently about music and the arts.