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The Alabama Love Man is a trip into the deep south, where there sprawls an optimism of love seemingly uncanny to a generation of tech geeks and window bashers.  It captures one of the most soulful voices the world has probably never heard before, and is the debut of a southern soul man, who – rather puzzling – remained underground, with no official LP for nearly half a century.  His voice – stirring and weathered – brings to mind the raw tones of immortals such as Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Al Green, and Terry Callier.  He is the “Alabama Love Man,” Ralph “Soul” Jackson.

The project’s organic, side-of-the-road soul is less than intricate, but this works for Jackson as his vocals are able to bear the brunt of the work heard here.  The homegrown compositions are simple, greasy and suave, and exhibit a lifetime of experience adorned with a parade of horns and organ-riffs of nostalgic sincerity.

“I Can’t Leave You Alone” opens the album on a big note, as the rhythm guitar strikes, ever-present organ, bouncing bass, and horn arrangement are among the best that’s heard throughout this release.  The follow up, “You’ve Been Very Good To Me,” begins like an Al Green classic and settles into the most melodic groove featured on the set.  The poppy and Stax-like “Searching” is decent, at best, however, it’s Jackson’s vocals that make this cut enjoyable – and the same could be said about the proceeding “For Just One Second” to a lesser extent.

“Somewhere in this world there’s a girl for me.”

“Somewhere In This World” yields a jumping groove that’s matches perfectly to the staccato of its backing vocals and Jackson’s natural sonic zing.  “There Must Be a Reason” is a ballad that’s undemanding in writing, but executed well enough to come forward as one of the better pure soul records of the year.

The Alabama Love Man features eight songs in total – including a pretty modest cover of the Ides of March’s hit, “Vehicle.”  And all of the songs are – in some ways – repressed by the glossy production that removes the grit often sought after in these types of records.  This considered, Ralph Jackson and co. still pumps out a pleasant effort with a message of love and hopefulness which remains intact from start to finish.

Three years in the making, after so many years in the music business, it seems rather blasphemous that it took this long to see an official release from the now deemed, soul legend.  But whatever the reason may be, may exist only in the never-ending potholes of what might have been.  For now, the narrative of Ralph “Soul” Jackson’s is still being written almost fifty years later.

-Julius Thompson

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