Artist: Paul Cauthen
Album: My Gospel
Label: Lightning Rod Records
Release Date: 10/14/2016
Mountains may be moved by this voice. People unquestionably will be. Paul Cauthen sings in a baritone rife with Waylon Jennings heft, Roy Orbison cool and Elvis swagger. But Cauthen’s set of brushed golden pipes is only one of the features of My Gospel that makes it the most spectacular Southwestern country/soul album to be released in quite some time. The co-founder of the acclaimed Austin, Texas duo, Sons Of Fathers, Cauthen wrote or co-wrote eleven striking songs about the human condition for this long overdue solo debut. All of them follow a central Americana highway, but veer off onto wide-open side roads with breathtaking twists, each climbing higher in stature than the one before. Quirky, cantering cowboy rhythms underscore “Still Drivin’,” the opening number in which Cauthen succinctly describes his life on the stage– a driver from one show to the next, and of himself to the brink of the cliff. Right off the bat, one can tell that this affair far exceeds the norm.
Recorded at three studios over three years, most notably Fame in Muscle Shoals, the players obviously played as if their jobs depended on the outcome, and the outcome sounds like it was all done in one fantastic half a day. And what players they are—basically a bunch of buddies, but extraordinarily talented. Except for “Be There Soon.” The moody buildup to that towering piece of gospel-fired soul announces the presence of the only guest, the great Spooner Oldham on organ, inspiring everyone, plus some spicy female backing vocalists. “Saddle” conjures the American West like much of the album, galloping towards a place where Mexicali horns suddenly change the scene. Suave urgency drives “I’ll Be the One,” and sad tenderness “As Young as You’ll Ever Be.” There’s rock- and real roll- on this album, and then there’s “Hanging Out on the Line,” which reminds this writer of the short-lived and highly-regarded Hacienda Brothers starring the late, great Chris Gaffney. That rumbling thunderhead of a plea buries itself in you instantly. Sons Of Fathers made waves. My Gospel portends tsunami-sized success for Paul Cauthen, for he’s made an album damn near perfect in every sense.