Soul Scanner: A Soul Revivalist Bridges the Gap

“Music is not old or new, it’s either good or bad,” says up-and-coming San Francisco-based artist Nick Waterhouse. “It either has soul – in the widest sense of the word – or it doesn’t.” He is at the forefront of the current wave of soul revivalists digging deep and looking back in order to move their musical careers forward. They prefer analog over digital, and their love for the traditional craft of recording is key in the quest for an authentic sound that is as true to themselves as it is to their heritage.

A wild, garage vibe informs the sound of Waterhouse’s Pres Records-released debut, Some Place. He’s recently signed to Los Angeles label Innovative Leisure and released the single “Is That Clear,” a horn-driven track with a soulful rockabilly edge.

"I Can Only Give You Everything" Nick Waterhouse

"There's Nothing I Can Do About It" Mike James Kirkland

"Hang On In There" Mike James Kirkland

One of Waterhouse’s biggest influences is Mike James Kirkland, who released music as Mike and the Censations in his early career. Over the course of seven singles, Kirkland crafted unique vignettes of mid-’60s soul, featuring touches of doo-wop, funk, and jazz as the backdrop to his honeyed vocals. He became a favorite on the lowrider scene and his tunes stand up to the likes of Sam Cooke or Solomon Burke.

“All his mid-’60s stuff with the Censations just crushes me,” says Waterhouse. “He never oversells or pushes his songs, he’s not a screamer. It just sounds real.”

Kirkland hopped from label to label, releasing just a few singles with each, while looking for the ideal contract. He even turned down a record deal from Curtis Mayfield to sign for Columbia. As such, a full-length album from the Censations never materialized, keeping him from fully breaking into the mainstream. However, Kirkland’s music has always been popular amongst soul music aficionados, particularly his socially conscious mid-’70s Hang On In There LP released under his own name, and re-issued by archival label Luv N’ Haight.

In 2010, John Legend and The Roots included a cover of the title track from Hang On In There on their Grammy-winning Wake Up! album. Questlove, who produced Wake Up!, described “Hang On In There” as “my favorite song. A defiant song.” Making the most of the renewed interest, on October 18th Luv N’ Haight will release Don't Sell your Soul, a compilation of Mike and the Censations spanning from 1965 to 1970.

Kirkland’s Censation releases feature ragtag production; his music career didn’t afford a lavish lifestyle and studio time was precious. For Waterhouse, the minimalist approach is self-enforced, but not because he’s trying to replicate the sound he reveres. “It’s just a similar idea,” he says of his process. “I’m recording at a studio that I grew up nearby, with my friends backing me. I’m doing what I can on a shoestring budget. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.”

Kirkland and Waterhouse’s raw output bridges the gap between two eras in both sound and spirit, with each artist successfully cutting frills to get by on bare bones productions. -- Andrew Jervis

If you like what you hear, purchase Mike James Kirkland's album, Don't Sell Your Soul, right here.

"I Can Only Give You Everything" Nick Waterhouse

"There's Nothing I Can Do About It" Mike James Kirkland

"Hang On In There" Mike James Kirkland


Anonymous said...

no soul. no thanks. nothin to see here. move along...

Philip Clark said...

Thanks for these! "Hang On In There" is a classic.

Irish Pappy said...

Yeah this one's a keeper

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