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


Recent
Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

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.