Music

Diplomats of Solid Sound Take You to 'A Higher Place'

Photo: Pravda Records

A music historian could pick out the multitude of sources that inform Diplomats of Solid Sound's A Higher Place. That may be fun and even illustrative, but it's beside the point. This is music to party with, dance to, and enjoy.

A Higher Place
Diplomats of Solid Sound

Pravda

21 June 2019

Diplomats of Solid Sound like it greasy. Their soulful music is rooted in the tunes of the past when steaks were marbled with fat and one was attracted to those from the wrong side of town. You can hear this in the girl group snappiness of their singing trio of Sarah Cram, Katherine Ruestow, and Abbie Sawyer. You can find this in the slurred notes of Nate "Count" Basinger's heavy organ and the brassy blasts of Eddie McKinley's saxophone playing. Or maybe you can simply enjoy the funky drums and bass of groove masters Forrest Heusinkveld and Ben Soltau. It's all there. But the special sauce that brings these elements together and makes it into something special lies in the sound of Douglas Roberson's guitar. Robeson's been at the core of the band since their inception 18 years ago and has kept the musical action moving.

Diplomats of Solid Sound originally hail from Iowa City, and as any Hawkeye can tell you (in a state where pigs outnumber people) that there are many ways to kill a pig, but only a true master can make it scrumptious. Roberson is the top chef who takes this tasty list of ingredients (re: musicians) and makes it into something especially delicious. He does this the old fashioned way, through collaboration. Roberson leads by example not by dictate. The eight-piece combo work together to create their soulful sounds. They bring out the best in each other. Robertson inspires them to be their best.

If anyone from the MacArthur Foundation is reading this, the man deserves a genius grant for his work with Head Candy, the Swarays, the Bent Scepters, the Dangtrippers, the Shy Strangers, etc. as well as Diplomats of Solid Sound in keeping early rock alive and vital.

That explains the general high quality of the material, even when the songs emerge from different contexts. The 12 tracks on A Higher Place come across like a greatest hits package of rock from before the British Invasion where each track is from a different act but somehow belong on the same collection. Sure, there are some echoes of post-Beatles music here. For example, the female vocalists owe as much to the Supremes as they do to the Chiffons or the Shangri-Las on "Gotta Find that Man". That's a good thing. Diplomats of Solid Sound aren't retro purists trying to recreate museum style pieces. They take inspiration wherever they can, from the smooth New Orleans's R&B roots of "Take Some Pity on Me Baby" to the rootsy Dale Hawkins style boogie of "Sometimes" to the Shirley Ellis clap pat beat of "Already Gone". There are many sonic references to artists like Booker T. Jones, King Curtis, and other great soul instrumentalists from the past.

A rock historian could pick out the multitude of sources that inform A Higher Place. That may be fun and even illustrative, but it's beside the point. This is music to party with, dance to, enjoy for its own sake. The band tells us that we need to find "Common Ground", but it's not a location. It's "moving to a higher place" with an emphasis on motion. Diplomats of Solid Sound understand that raising one's spirit is sourced in keeping the body active and mobile. They don't expect you to over-intellectualize their music. The band just wants you to have a good time.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.