[Sprawl of Sound] Eli 'Paperboy' Reed and Yet More Coachella Blurbage

Shades of Soul and Desert Revels
Eli 'Paperboy' Reed and  Yet More Coachella Blurbage

Let's debunk two myths right now. 1) White men can jump. Ever see a high-level volleyball match? Case closed. Also, type “Henry Bekkering” into YouTube's search engine. 2) White people can make great soul music. This second assertion will take a little more elaboration.

In the '60s, African-Americans dominated the soul genre, but a handful of Caucasians emerged who could legitimately compete with the major players. Artists such as Rare Earth, Van Morrison, the Band, Lee Michaels, 100 Proof (Aged in Soul) and Steve Marriott (Small Faces, Humble Pie) created bodies of work that still send shivers down spines of all colors (or they ought to).

Today there seem to be fewer great young soul singers of all races. Which is why when a Jamie Lidell or an Amy Winehouse (or someone like D'Angelo in the '90s) comes around, some critics can't help hyperventilating over their talents. Allston, Massachusetts' Eli “Paperboy” Reed is one of the latest melanin-deficient musicians to raise hopes among soul connoisseurs for his retro neo-soul (or is it neo retro-soul?).

The back story screams Hollywood biopic: At age 18, Reed moved from Massachusetts to the North Mississippi Delta to immerse himself in the R&B, soul, and blues scenes. This was his college education, except with later hours. He honed his chops there for nine months, and then moved north to attend the University of Chicago. While there, Reed ended up singing and playing piano with former Chess Records soul vocalist-turned-clergyman Mitty Collier. A year later, Reed returned to Boston and formed the True Loves in 2004.

Reed's album with the True Loves, Roll With You (out April 29 on Q Division), plus a grip of singles that preceded it, sound like they could've been recorded during Richard Nixon's reign, when an amazing amount of classic soul and funk sides were cut (coincidence? I don't think so). Reed and his taut young group are very adept at rousing rave-ups (“Doin' the Boom Boom,” “The Satisfier”) and heart-piercing, confessional ballads (“Am I Just Fooling Myself,” “It's Easier”).

Reed—who also plays guitar—comes off as an earnest disciple of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. His music is thoroughly rooted in traditional tropes, but the songs are executed with bracing devotion and warm, analog recording aesthetics. Fans of the Daptones label will likely cotton to Eli and co.

Discussing Roll With You, Reed says, “If a record comes on and makes you want to dance right away, then you're doing a good job. If a record comes on and makes you want to cry right away, you're also doing a good job. I think this album does both.” That's an accurate assessment, not just idle boasting.

For more information, visit www.myspace.com/elipaperboyreed.

Because the 5,000-plus words about 50-plus acts we spilled elsewhere in the paper aren't enough, I present yet more hot tips on what to catch at the Indio hoedown. This is what's known as going above—but not beyond—the call of duty.

EROL ALKAN. Revered for his remixing prowess among dance and rock artists (Justice, Hot Chip, Interpol, Daft Punk and Franz Ferdinand have used his services), this Brit also possesses epicurean, eclectic taste on the decks. (Saturday)

CURSES! Also known as NYC breakcore master Drop the Lime, Curses! is a one-man rave-revival movement, but with tons more bass pressure in his rambunctiously uplifting tracks. Guzzle an extra energy drink for this one. (Saturday)

LITTLE BROTHER. The best “pure” hip-hop act of the fest. Old-school boom-bap production molded from world-class crate digging coupled with smart talk about the everyday struggle; it's nothing new, but it's damned good. (Saturday)

MGMT. This NYC duo craft ornate, psychedelic pop on their debut full-length Oracular Spectacular, one of the best major-label releases of 2008 (damning with faint praise?). Lead single “Time to Pretend” is an instant classic that's paradoxically euphoric and melancholy. Expect mass sing-alongs and unison swaying. (Saturday)

COOL KIDS. This Chicago hip-hop twosome have almost 80,000 MySpace friends and Rolling Stone's seal of approval. Nevertheless, you should still try to catch 'em. Cool Kids' brand of hip-hop is appealingly slack and hooky. Fatigued from all these mainstream MCs' ineloquent bellowing? Cool Kids' Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish are the Digable Planets-like antidote, and their stripped-down electro-funk productions are dope as fuck. (Sunday)

MODESELEKTOR. This Berlin duo creates glitchy, glittery, grimy techno/electro that will twist you into weird shapes. Check out their wide-ranging albums Hello Mom! and Happy Birthday! on Ellen Allien's Bpitch label for slamming introductions. Modeselektor are also capable DJs with diverse, refined tastes (Flying Lotus, Burial, Rhythm N Sound, etc.), as their Boogbytes Vol.03 mix proves. And, dude, Thom Yorke's a fan. (Sunday)

Eli “Paperboy” Reed N the True Loves perform with DJ Bobby Soul at the Continental Room, 115 Santa Fe Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-4529; www.myspace.com/thecontinentalroom. Fri., 9 p.m. Free.

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