Fifty years ago soul music was what not only fueled multiple generations, but also fed a world rife with struggle. While much hasn’t changed in the years since Otis Redding and Sam Cooke were around, the genre has seen a resurgence over the last decade. Replace the fact that a lot of those who lead the genre came from the same part of the country, soul acts come from all over today-many of which are from the Southern part of the US. Austin’s Tomar and the FCs got on my radar a couple of years ago. After witnessing their heavy lifting in getting a Texas crowd to their feet, the rumors of a new album were out for what seemed like forever. However forever is here and that album Rise Above echoes plenty of what makes soul so stirring without co-opting the genre into something it isn’t.
While this is soul music, it should be noted that there’s elements of funk and R&B as well. The songs are strewn together in a mix of genre mixing and Tomar Williams’ soul drenched vocals. While the album is filled with lively numbers like the opener, “Can’t You See,” there’s a balance between tracks that bounce and tracks that pour out like molasses. The upbeat tracks have plenty of life in them, that you almost feel compelled to clap and move when they come on. Songs like “Fine Time” and “Innocence” groove and shake. Though while the title track is quick and hits perfectly, our favorite of these comes with “Gypsy Woman.” With a hip shaking stride and a soul heavy ground level, the song has just enough of the past baked into its sound that it resonates with your ears and your body as soon as it comes on.
The other half of the album has these slow burn tracks that evoke all of Williams’ vocals strengths. The first sign of this comes with “This Woman.” opening with a swagger and a shake that feels as Southern as it gets, the way the vocals hit like a lullaby creates a vibe that’s as sultry as it is effective. It occurs again on “Always You,” though it steers more towards traditional soul. The song where it rises up is on the album’s closer, “Up.” The song has a progression that’s almost Beatles-esque in its sound. While Williams’ vocals will remind you of how Redding drenched your ears with emotion, it’s his own here and without mimic. The song’s parable is as universal as music gets while the guitar breaks through the drums and organ like a knife to butter. What Rise Above proves is that when band’s today reignite a genre’s flame, it can get hotter than the first time you were introduced to it.
Rise Above is ready to purchase via Splice Records in all digital outlets. It can be streamed on all streaming sites. Tomar and the FCs will be on tour beginning February 21 at Continental Club in Houston, TX until March 18 at SXSW in Austin, TX. The band’s complete tour schedule can be found here.
Image Credits: Photo by Arius Holifield.