Bigger, better and a new album to boot.
The second annual Fly Free Fest came and went last month and was, by all accounts, a HUGE success. There’s no doubt a great deal of goodness came out of the event with one shining example being the latest release from Soul Mechanic, Research to Reality. I wrote about Soul Mechanic way back in April, and at the time I was impressed. They were really quite good. In the intervening six months or so they have managed to go from “quite good” to “holy hell, this band is phenomenal!”
For 15 years I have written about local music for one publication or another, and in that time I’ve discovered more often than not that a regional band stays regional. Even the very good ones still have some intangible quality that marks them as a band that has not yet “made it.” Whatever Soul Mechanic has been up to in the last half year, they have managed to shed the vestiges of “amateur” that may have lingered and have taken center stage as one of the most polished groups I’ve heard. The album sounds as though it was recorded by a gaggle of veteran studio musicians from any major metropolis.
That estimation may not be too far off, as the group has added some new players, including one who happens to a respected studio musician (though perhaps not from a major metropolis). Brett Nolan has taken up keyboard duties with the band, albeit on a temporary basis for now. Jon Elliot (who has played with the band on and off for two years) has come back to the fold, along with recent additions Jessica Nunn and Jeff McSpadden, which means that the original four piece of Tyler, Clark, William and Kyle has now doubled in size.
Lord knows that keeping a band going with three or four players is like herding cats. The logistics behind an eight-piece group require serious-minded, professional, dedicated musicians or it simply can’t be done. It seems that this is exactly who and what the boys have added to the band because this work (ten tracks recorded live at Fly Free Fest and bundled with a DVD to boot) is simply some of the hottest jam/funk/psychedelica I’ve ever heard.
I feel I need to be very clear on a particular point: The four new members and their instrumental and vocal contributions do not feel “tacked on” in a way that would be “Soul Mechanic and Friends.” The keys, viola, percussion and voices (and artistic vision, no doubt) of the new members have fundamentally altered Soul Mechanic’s sound in a way that transcends their older work. The band was already very good, but this is a new beast. Soul Mechanic has reached a higher level of technical skill and musical intuition. It’s only a matter of time before they move on to bigger dreams and better scenes.
With the release of this new live LP, I’d say they’re on their way.