Follow Apollo – Muscle Shoals rockers kicking some neo-soul

Let me get right to it, this is an awesome album. If Muscle Shoals, Alabama soul music doesn’t mean anything to you… well, sit down, friend and a get an education. One of the deepest, most soulful traditions in American music is still at it with a recent album from Follow Apollo. Florence, Alabama’s own have a nice neo-soul vibe complete with funky beats, great guitar licks, and vocals dripping with authenticity. You need this.

The first track is titled “Groovy” because these cats don’t mess around. It’s got some sounds I can’t identify, I’m just sure they were originally conceived in 1975. I can smell stale cigarettes and feel the bell-bottoms tighting around my legs. It’s vintage in all its glory.

“Reach for the Sun” is one of the best tracks on the album. It’s got a sort of esoteric funk, complete with an organ or keyboard that provides some excellent experimental depth. The lyrics are a bit on the psychedelic side, with a hope-saturated dreamy exasperation. The beat is a bit more relaxed than some of the other tracks, but it’s got the right kind of feel to relax the listener. “I threw my hands up… I think I’ve had enough.” We’ve all been there man, trust me.

There are two tracks “Heavy” and “Heavy part 2” that really do fit together. They deserve two words, “dat bass.” In fact, if someone asked me why they should listen to Follow Apollo I’d just spin “Heavy” for them. Great bass, killer melody line, head-bobbing beat, and falsetto… what more could a guy want? It has a Bob Marley hope to it, “you could learn to live and love… I know.” I have no idea why anyone would want to try, but it’s impossible to sit still listening to these tracks. (PS, in fairness, if the two words for “Heavy” is “dat bass” then the two for part two should be “dem drums.” Whew.)

The closer “Life is Gold” has a much more electronic sound than anything we typically cover around here… but that’s exactly what made it work so well for me. It’s not a typical sound. If anything, it sounds like Owl City. The track has this vibe, though, that’s just addictive. The beat is great and the guitar work is easily the best on the album. All told, it’s probably not a sound you expected from a Muscle Shoals band, but it just seems to work.

Although it doesn’t really fit the typical genres we cover here, Follow Apollo have created a piece of art that is a testament to their roots, yet preserves an exciting new direction. I am not typically a fan of so much electronic sound, but these guys pull it off. They do a great job of evolving what “soul” means as a genre. Life is Gold is an album that’s sure to entertain guests who are ready for something new and exciting. Put away your old, predictable indie music this summer and give these Alabama guys a spin. Your friends will thank you.

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