Review of Sweet Soul | December 2015 | Reviewer: Melanie Young
“I’ve got places to go, but nothing to prove” Deb Callahan sings on Slow as Molasses, Sweet as Honey, and the lyric could also serve as a summary for her new album. Her first release in nearly five years, Sweet Soul reveals the Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter to be in full possession of her abilities-confident, relaxed, yet pulsing with verve.
The twin themes of love and family-and their many permutations-course throughout the album. Big Love is a funky, keyboard driven romp; album producer Tony Braunagel’s drums anchor Mike Finnigan’s swirling organ on Born to Love You. “Makin somethin from nothing’, that’s what women do” Callahan’s clear mezzo assets on I Keep Things Running, and it and Seven States Away reveals a third motif-a women’s work. Johnny Lee Schell’s broiling slide underscores the burn of love gone wrong on Shackin Up, and the affecting I Am Family is a gospel inflected lament for a wayward sibling. “You know I love you but I can’t drown in it”. The brooding energy that pulses beneath Step Back breaks loose on the chorus, reflecting the emotional arc of the song.
A moody version of David Egan’s You Don’t Know Your Mind, spirited covers of Crazy Bout You Baby, Candi Staton’s Sweet Feeling, Tom Wait’s Way Down in the Hole and an especially fun take on Dr. John’s I Been Hoodood – Allen James guitar trades yowls with Callahan as the song fades-sound out the recording.
Shot through with strength and vivacity, Deb Callahan’s Sweet Soul is a satisfying treat for the ear.