Soulful Femme – “It Is Well With My Soul” (LP)
The state of modern music is something seemingly a million think pieces have been written about at this point. The so-called death of independent thought and artistic sales at the hands of streaming monopolies, the dire need for the Grammys to step up their game and rise to meet the needs of a new generation of artists who don’t feel represented by their older generational peers, and the overall air of pretentious apathy and cynical ambivalence being strewn across forums in an almost exclusively-online world are all major issues, but the answer cannot be approached head-on. For most musicians caught up in the endless cycle of other people just parroting back responses they want to hear, the general issues that people project as “plagues on modern music” truly don’t affect most musicians at the end of the day. The majority of musicians you’ll encounter in your day-to-day life aren’t those that will top the Billboard charts, but they’re just as genuine and honest if not more so.
The rise of independent recording has been something that has, for the most part, been a major plus for indie acts. Tying this into the Grammys issue, one notable indie artist who had never released an album for financial gain to bypass the sampling copyright issue in hip-hop was Chance the Rapper, a tried-and-true indie musician who started with shaky mixtapes on no label and most recently has won several Grammys as a result of his dedication to creating art as his own boss. The current state of independent music is one worth celebrating, and at the end of the day, most artists are aware of this. One such group has just recently arrived on the recording scene with their debut album, even though they’ve been performing live shows for years as the band Soulful Femme.
Soulful Femme is an act that’s basically as indie as they come — having spent a good couple of decades performing and writing in multiple capacities, lead singer Stephanie “Stevee” Wellons is no novice when it comes to the way the music industry works. Similarly, Cheryl Rinovato has been established for years as a studio guitarist and has made certainly quick work of it with her background as a Berklee College of Music student, so the joining of these two forces felt like an inevitability. At long last, the group has released their debut album under the title It Is Well With My Soul, and the project is certainly an enjoyable one that works both as a great first outing for the group as well as something to whet the palate of those craving live shows.
The production works like that of a rock concert with Wellons’ vocals belting pitch-perfect notes over Rinovato’s masterful guitar work, and the slew of influences range from those of old to bands more contemporary yet softer-spoken. The deeply influenced “Dead Man’s Blues,” which features Bernard Allison, comes to mind as an initial standout off of the album — other peaks include the rip-roaring “Set You Free,” which more or less opens the album after the softer introductory title track sets the stage for the overall tone of the album, as well as the fun “Born To Blues,” which will certainly be a standout at Soulful Femme live shows. The modern equivalent of Soulful Femme only exists within themselves, which is a rare feat worth noting. It Is Well With My Soul is a substantive addition to modern blues and soul with small notes of funk, and the resurgence of such genres might just be on the way. Modern music may be in no dire need of saving, but there are still acts on the rise that will surely place it in a better headspace than it might currently be in.