By Mike O’Cull
The Gold Souls bring forth the power of the funk and R&B on the band’s new album Downtown Sound. Released via Good To Feel LLC, Downtown Sound is a tight, kinetic, body-rocking effort that finds this Northern California crew freely mixing and matching soul textures and blues lyricism with amazing funk grooves and the kind of vocal and instrumental performances that will actually set the roof on fire. Though the band is only a few titles into a promising career, The Gold Souls rock with the wisdom and momentum of a seasoned outfit that’s never afraid to double-down on itself. Together, the band has forged an ensemble sound that unites knowledge of self, of the world, and of music into songs that are as vintage as they are contemporary and speak directly to the audiences of today.
The group is fronted by the percolating presence of vocalist Juniper Waller, who leans into each line she sings with the tenacity of an old soul. She is supported by Darius Upshaw on guitar, Alex Severson on keys, Billy D. Thompson on drums, and Avery Jeffry on bass. All five musicians participate in the songwriting process, which gives The Gold Souls a genuinely collaborative sound. The band began blowing minds around Sacramento in 2017 and was quickly recognized as one of the most vital and entertaining new acts in town. They’ve been on a steady uphill climb ever since, touring, writing, and recording so intensely that the Covid pandemic barely slowed them down. The Gold Souls have worked with multiple Grammy winner Timothy Bloom (Smokey Robinson), played in southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and New Orleans, and appeared at the Joshua Tree Music Festival. Clearly, big things are on the horizon.
From the opening beats of the first cut “‘94 Chevy,” you can tell that The Gold Souls are crucially funky, completely interconnected, and lyrically sophisticated. This tale of a high-speed chase with a surprise ending will keep you listening and dancing right to the end. Guitarist Darius Upshaw fully defines the pocket here and proves himself to be the sort of rhythmic dynamo this music couldn’t exist without. Juniper Waller gets her vocal vibe just right and will command your attention effortlessly.
“Strongman” is a riff-driven funk workout that tops its heavily syncopated main figure with a message about female empowerment that will resonate with 21st Century people everywhere. Juniper takes non-understanding men to school here and speaks her piece about loving with no limitations or expectations. Some sweet horn stabs add color and coolness to this bumping cut that was actually released as a single back in 2019. It’s a definitive TGS track and packs a soulful punch that will light you up.
The ballad “Heart Curves” is a bit of a breather among all the upbeat songs on Downtown Sound although it still packs its own funky flavor. Juniper’s lyrics offer her progressive, non-cliched opinions on relationships that make this cut way more than simply another slow jam. Listen closely and you’ll discover confident, unapologetic lines full of their own perspective and worth.
“The Coffee Song” is bold, heavy, and dark-roasted. It has more of a rock influence in certain sections that drives the beat into the stratosphere and a dramatic sensibility that builds and explodes. Juniper wails like Robert Plant when she starts feeling the burn and is absolutely magnificent. The title song, “Downtown Sound,” comes next to last but is worth every bit of your listening time. The group mixes funk, blues, and their own secret spice into an original style that demolishes every boundary it encounters. Once you experience it, you’ll get it. The Gold Souls are a visionary outfit leading forward-thinking fans to a new kind of dance party. Downtown Sound is your ticket inside and you’ll hang out all night if you know what’s good for you.
Watch “’94 Chevy”
Download/listen link for Downtown Sound
The Gold Souls website