Devin B. ThompsonTales Of The Soul
Severn RecordsDevin B. Thompson hails from the Chicago suburb of Joliet, Illinois. Raised in a musical family his father and sister sang in the church choir. Thompson began playing trumpet and singing backing vocals in his older brother’s band when he was still in his teens. His early influences were instrumentalists like Miles Davis, before gravitating toward soul and jazz singers Marvin Gaye and Joe Williams. Thompson’s father introduced Devin to the music of family friend Willie Parker, who recorded under the name Frankie Newsome, and he soon became Thompson’s mentor. Thompson and Parker worked together in the Chicago based society band, the Georgia Francis Orchestra. Thompson was working on getting Newsome some better gigs, and his friend Tad Robinson turned Thompson onto some of Newsome’s older records. Robinson also sent them to David Earl at Severn Records. Earl wanted to record Newsome on his label and a pilgrimage was made to Maryland for that purpose. When it finally became time to record, Newsome was stricken with cancer and eventually succumbed, passing away in 2019. Earl later asked Thompson to step-in and record.
“Tales Of The Soul” was recorded and mixed by Earl at his Severn Sound Studio in Annapolis, Maryland. The album is co-produced by Earl, Thompson and musical director Kevin Anker. The Severn house-band was expanded to give vocalist Thompson a silkier sound; comparable perhaps to a Malaco Records production. Included are Johnny Moeller and special guest Robben Ford, guitars; Anker, piano; Benjie Porecki, organ; Steve Gomes or Jimmy Earl, bass; Robb Stupka, drums; and Mark Morella, percussion. The horns include Kenny Rittenhouse and Joe Donegan, trumpets; Antonia Orta, saxophone; and Bill Holmes, trombone. The backing voices include Thompson, Caleb Green, Cristal Rheams, and Kennedy Thompson.
The album opens with three soulful chestnuts before we get to hear Thompson’s originals. Thompson opens with “Love To See You Smile” recorded by Bobby “Blue” Bland in 1978; the production including both the horns and backing vocalists. The band is in the pocket and vocalist Thompson smooth as silk on Little Milton’s 1972 single “Cry Me A River”; just as Thompson begins to scat special guest Ford comes in with the first of several solos, while the horns, Porecki’s organ and background singers complete the decorations. “Something You Can Do Today”, originally recorded by Joe Simon in 1972, features Anker’s piano, Porecki on organ, the chorus singers, and vocalist Thompson’s beautiful lead.
The funky “Back Together” co-written by Thompson with bassist Hiram J. Grigsby Jr. features some heavy percussion from Morella and layers of horns and organ. “I Ain’t No Good” is even funkier and heavier with a rap like narrative “I’m a cheater and a liar”, some stellar guitar from Moeller, and some more in the pocket rhythm. My favorite is the mood making, sexy but danceable, “I Can’t Wait To Get Home Tonight”. A troubled lover sings “no matter what I do, I Can’t Get Over You”. Thompson’s beautiful voice contrasts with the big beats on “tryin’ to figure out, what’s it’s all about, ‘cause I Can’t Read Your Mind” with some more great guitar from Ford. Thompson sings sweetly on “Time After Time” with Anker playing some lounge styled piano, as he reflects on a lost love, and desperately pleads. There is really nothing comparable to the R n’ B heard here.The set closes with “Tell Me” a Curtis Mayfield styled meditation on being Black in America. “Tell Me what it is about my skin that you don’t like”. Thompson challenges the listener to have empathy and to “walk in someone else’s shoes”. Thompson is a unique talent. Right for the times we live in. Think about it.