East Side Slim
Jake Austin & The City Limits – Country Soul
Jake Austin & The City Limits – Country Soul
It's hard to believe that Country Soul is the debut CD from Jake Austin & The City Limits. This young band hit the ground running in St. Louis around 2009. The album contains the sounds of a band seasoned well beyond its formative years, at least in my opinion. Jake Austin and his boys have a unique sound, one that is hard to categorize. Is it soul? Not exactly. Country? Naw. R&B? Yes…and no. Rock 'n' Roll? Could be, but it rolls too much. To my ears, this is just great music, period, of the sort that has appeal to most any listener with big ears. How can you argue with soulful music played with chops, featuring solid songwriting, Jake's old-soul vocals, and horns 'a plenty? In my mind, you can't argue with it at all; you can only enjoy it! For a quick reference, think Tower of Power, early Steve Winwood (Spencer Davis era) and Johnny Adams' Sound Stage Seven material, combined with more modern touches (remember, this is a young band.)
The live band you'll see/hear consists of Jake Austin (vocals), Joe Giaimo (lead guitar), Zach Ingle (the band's secret weapon playing lap, steel and rhythm guitars), John Chambers (drums), Mark Perry (bass), James Flowers (bari sax) and Brandon Hughes (trombone). The line-up that recorded the CD was slightly different, replacing Chambers, Perry and Hughes with: Zebadiah Briskovich on bass – does that sound like stage name to you?, Brett Voelker on drums, and 3 parts of the Funky Butt Brass Band Horns in Aaron Chandler, Ben Reece and Adam "that's a cornet, man" Hucke. While The City Limits don't usually carry keyboard players, the CD was augmented with very nice piano and organ work from Corey Edwards and Pete Ruthenberg (Pete plays with The Jim Stevens Trio), both of whom received thanks in the album liner notes.
The Songs: (songwriters in parenthesis)
1. Mississippi – (Jake Austin)
--This cut is an up-tempo booty-shaker chock full of fun attitude, featuring nice horn charts and snaking slide guitar lines. The harder the horns play the tougher Jake's singing gets, continually feeding off each other.
2. 9 to 5 – (Jake Austin/Joe Giaimo)
--No, this is not the Dolly Parton movie theme. This song works an irresistible loping groove, definitely living up to the "soul" in the CD title. Listen closely as there's a lot going on, sort of like a gumbo of sound, all the separate pieces having their own special flavors, leading to a final product that's even better!
3. Country Soul – (Jake Austin/Zach Ingle/Joe Giaimo)
--The band is working closer to the "country" portion of the CD title on this song (although it's definitely up-tempo rockin' country), and the work of the horn section ensures there's still plenty of soul to go around. This song could be a hit recording right now all through the Midwest and the South, from country line-dancing palaces to county fairs, from rock clubs to blues bars.
4. Never Be Mine – (Jake Austin/Joe Giaimo)
--Jake and his City Limits slow things down a bit here after the 3 hot numbers that led off the CD. Although Jake always has a bit of country in his vocals, he is in every way a soul singer. His delivery is deeply soulful, and his tone reminds me of singers such as Steve Winwood, who have that raspy/reedy quality to their voice. This type of singer usually blends in well with horns, and Jake is no exception.
5. Fanciful – (Jake Austin/Zach Ingle/Joe Giaimo)
--This is a really nice, almost sweet, mid-tempo soul number, one that could gain airtime on Adult Contemporary radio formats. And before anyone out there says, ack!, think along the lines of Tower of Power music. This is a beautiful tune that show's off the gentler side of Jake's voice very well.
6. Lucy – (Jake Austin)
--This tune is a country-tinged rocker with enough sleazy sounding guitar work to make you think cookin' and cleanin' aren't the only things Lucy is good at. Punchy horns up the ante even more.
7. Nothin' Like You – (Jake Austin)
--Country and soul mix hard on this one, as the verses are countrified (but soul'd up with the horn charts that are utilized) and the choruses are old-school horn-driven R&B, with enough twangy and jangly guitars to keep in touch with that country tag. All in all, this is one fine, high energy country-soul romp!
8. Darlin' Please – (Jake Austin)
--After the ripping and the roaring of the previous track, Jake dials things down a bit here with a ballad. Touches of sustain-laden single-note guitar lines and melancholy organ work contribute mightily to the strong sense of urgency expressed in Jake's voice in what is essentially a prayer for peace of mind for an anguished soul.
9. Interlude (Amazing Grace) – (Public Domain; arr by Zach Ingle)
--This short (1:11), atmospheric instrumental snippet of Amazing Grace continues the mood of the previous tune, while at the same time serving as a starkly contrasting segue way into the more carnal vibe and content of the following song.
10. Smoking Gun – (Jake Austin/Chris Koboldt)
--A man runs amok, leaving havoc in his wake…well, you're gonna have to pay for those sins, boy. This one is a hard-edged, funkified country-soul number, featuring jangly guitar chords and outstanding horn charts. Maybe those horns will help that boy see the light!
11. Lullaby – (Jake Austin)
--The set closer is essentially a solo piece for Jake. It's a beautiful, incredibly soulful take featuring Jake's singing. The accompaniment is provided via an electric piano sound (or Rhodes, I'm not sure) that is perfect for this well-named track. Kudos go out to the fine keyboard work here, provided by either Pete Ruthenberg (of the Jim Stevens Trio out of St. Louis) or Corey Edwards.
Does anyone remember the last time you acquired some new music, something slightly unfamiliar, that made you leap up and say "Wow!" Well, this CD, Country Soul from Jake Austin & The City Limits, performed that very trick for me. To say it was a pleasant surprise would be an understatement, indeed. Just look at the positives on display here: well-crafted songs that you WANT to hear again, an extremely soulful singer (that boy Jake can flat out bring it), clever and tasteful complimentary guitar playing (electric and steel/slide), and some of the catchiest horn charts this side of Memphis. Put that together with influences from soul, R&B, country and rock 'n' roll and you have a force to be reckoned with – and a band that understands how to engage and entertain an audience. This is a band with a true musical vision. OK, let's rate this bad boy. I'm assigning an STLBluesometer rating of 4.50 to Country Soul - this is a good one! Do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of this CD, which is also downloadable through the band's website (see below.) Also, get out and see them live in St. Louis soon, as their touring schedule is getting more advanced all the time and it might not be too long before stops back home in St. Louis are something of a rarity.
For more information concerning Jake Austin & The City Limits, including how to purchase their music, see the following websites:
Lee Howland - aka East Side Slim