Music Review: The Rosewood Thieves by uncdiversions
May 21, 2009, 8:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Rosewood Thieves

Heartaches by the Pound


There are a few interesting things at play in the background of Heartaches by the Pound, the terrific new EP of Solomon Burke re-imaginings (not covers) by New York City’s The Rosewood Thieves.

First off, Burke isn’t exactly the most riveting of soul singers. I’d consider myself a soul-fiend, and I don’t think Burke is even on the proverbial Mount Rushmore of soul/R&B. He lacks the passion of Otis, the pain of Sam and the twist-ability of R&B contemporaries like The Four Tops or the O’Jays.

Even as I sit here listening to his 1969 album, Proud Mary, I can’t help thinking that if the world never heard another version of “These Arms of Mine,” “A Change is Gonna Come,” or even the record’s title track, no one would be upset.

Second, there’s that whole perception of a difference in “black” and “white” music. Rock n Roll was built on breaking down the barrier (Elvis, anyone?) and when done properly, as with this collection, it’s clear that swagger and bravado -standbys of soul – aren’t limited to one race over another. It’s all about passion, something the Rosewood Thieves have in spades.

So, the fact that the Thieves breathe new life into the old songs of a man who made a living singing and recording other people’s hits makes for an interesting backdrop for the EP.

These tracks are all Burke originals, but it’s as if they haven’t actually seen the light until today. They needed the youthful passion of a band just starting out to really shake loose. And shake loose they do, melding Motown’s greatest themes – love and heartbreak – together with vigor and passion: two things often lacking in Burke’s limp handshake renditions of classic tunes.

There is pain in “Go on Back to Him,” a track that perfectly captures post break-up resignation. Angry on the outside, broken on the inside, vocalist Erick Jordan fires off, “You better go on back to him/I don’t want you to see me cry.” Surrounded by metronomic drums and a guitar bit that borders on rock steady, it is a declaration that hits the mark, both sonically and emotionally.

But he gets over her, by the end, and stand out “You’re Good for Me,” closes things off with a classic keyboard riff opening and even more timeless statement, “You’re no good for yourself/you’re no good for nobody else/But you’re good for me.” Maybe Jordan is tricking himself – ain’t that what love’s all about – but he’s damn convincing.

That word – convincing – could pretty much sum up the whole release. The Thieves makes these songs their own, running laps around the originals with the youthful energy that self-proclaimed “King Solomon” always lacked.

The Rosewood Thieves play a show at Nightlight tomorrow night. Chapel Hill’s the Huguenots also play, but opener True Womanhood has canceled. Show starts at 10 p.m. and costs $5.

– By Diversions Senior Writer Jamie Williams


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