Curtis Harding is a refreshing addition to the soul revival that has inched its way into corners of the mainstream the last decade. Combining traditional Motown soul with garage rock, Harding has dubbed his style “slop n’ soul”, though I wouldn’t say any of the songs sound sloppy.
Opener “Next Time” carries REM-style jangly guitars into a tight groove that could be a Gnarls Barkley outtake. There’s a detached yearning in the song that keeps it cool enough for blasting in a car but emotional enough that you could dig into it through headphones on a quiet night. Second track “Castaway” is equally melancholy, and would have made a great slow dance song at a 70’s prom. Curtis also lets loose a nice blues guitar solo on this track, making it clear he has more than just his voice to rely on.
The mood brightens with first single “Keep on Shining”. While not a lyrical masterpiece, it is the closest to a classic Stax record that you’ll hear on the record. Horns, backing vocals, and a danceable beat – it’s like Curtis is soliciting himself for a future Tarantino soundtrack.
The garage rock overpowers the soul on “Surf”, a banger that follows the flamenco-laced “Freedom”. “Surf” moves away from Motown and looks towards Detroit’s other musical roots, bands like Death and the MC5. It’s proto-punk with a lyrical bent towards “Gimme Shelter”.
The punkish vibe keeps going on “I Don’t Want to Go Home”, before we go into ballad territory on “Beautiful People” and “Heaven’s on the Other Side”, another stand out on Soul Power.
Not every song flows well in the context of the album. “The Drive”‘s drums are a little too industrial for their own good, adding menace to this psychedelic song that would freak out a listener on an acid trip. Closing track “I Need a Friend” uses a Prince-ish falsetto that deters from the rest of the album’s muscularity.
Overall, it’s a solid debut album from an artist who will likely only get more interesting and experimental as he grows as a musician. Check him out now.
The album is out now through Burger Records. Listen to it on Spotify