Funded by a 2012 Kickstarter.com campaign, their debut album highlights the collaborative songwriting skills and, as they call it, “sonic exploration” employed by the band’s members Brian Ronzendal and Bryan Daste. Both performed in Rozendal’s namesake band Rozendal, and Daste also performs in Portland’s Scotland Barr & The Slow Drags, with both bands having a distinctly slower and twangier drawl than does Small Souls.
Small Souls sound like a couple things. First, there’s a Texan country pace and tone to the whole thing, and yet Rozendal’s vocals sing with a clarity of brightness and color that sounds more like a white, middle-America lead singer searching for meaning that it does a weathered, Texan cowboy crooner mourning love lost. Bryan Daste draws steady on the pedal steele guitar, grounding Rozendal’s ballad-driven vocals inside of country and blues on tracks like “Lines Are Breaking,” a piece in which Rozendal soaringly asks, “If I still need you when you’re free, will you come back for me?”
Small Souls does, however, step out of the Texan dust and into the California sunshine with tracks like “Christmas Begging,” which lilts over light snare through walking strings juxtaposed by falling vocals. “Serena” gently rocks pedal steele guitar over piano, with cello moving in for a classically-colored accompaniment midway-through song. “Please Don’t Give Me What I Want” boasts an up-and-down chorus that’s likely to have you humming the line long after you’ve heard it, and “Lost a Day” strips down to naked songwriting.
All in all, small souls is a good listen. It’s solid, it’s tight, it’s well-crafted and meaningful. It may be a little “simple” ~ there are no crazy harmonies, weird rhythms, or blindingly innovative sounds on this album ~ but that’s not what Small Souls is about. The album instead drips over some of life’s more quietly intimate moments.
And if you happen to be in Portland, Oregon next weekend, you can check out their album release show at the Secret Society on Saturday January 26th at 9pm, where the featured Small Souls act will perform alongside Portland’s Ezza Rose and Shoeshine Blue.
Check out a free download of “Please Don’t Give Me What I Want,” off of the Small Souls album.
Small Souls performing “Sympathy” in 2011.