Mahalia Barnes + The Soulmates

Hard Expectations


Mahalia Barnes and The Soul Mates return with a fresh set of songs, in the company of some notable guests. If the song titles look to be the stuff of human dilemmas and relationship matters..well, they certainly are. This songstress mines the dark tunnels of the soul and all sides of romantic entanglement. At one point the shadows will lengthen and the pain grows..the next, the blazing sunbursts of real love make the listener glad to be alive. The core band here is Dave Hibbard drums, Benjamin Rogers bass, Franco Raggatt guitars, Clayton Doley and Lachlan Doley keys. Rogers produces. Kirk Fletcher adds guitar throughout.

Love Is Fleeting is a pacey starting song, Mahalia wrings every ounce of soul from the lyric while a linear arrangement refuses to let up. Every now and again with this artist you can hear the odd trace of Tammi Terrell and even Dusty Springfield. On to Hard Expectations is a slightly slower Memphis-soaked on a righteous lyric with slivers of guitar and a rich backing chorale. If you dig Ann Peebles, try this one.

My Love is a Hammond-led twilight tune where Barnes reflects over the snare patter and it’s beautifully handled, especially the bridge. No over-singing, just the truth. Ain’t Nobody Else has a guitar-stoked swagger and a plaintive vocal that seems to nod at Etta James, whilst Shake Things Up rides a wah’d syncopated in a Bette Davis vein. Hard Times is the Curtis Mayfield number has a clavinet funk vibe about it and maybe the best vocal in the programme. Fletcher can be heard singing on this one. Loneliness Is Cold gives the drummer some over stately organ chording.

Move On includes a guitar break by Joe Bonamassa, no less. It’s a choppy Staxy effort in a very comfortable key for Barnes. The bass on this is terrific, btw. At nearly four minutes, Joe puts in a stinging solo, mid-neck and propulsive. You don’t want it to end ! Then, Walk All Over Me with its stabbing, lurching beat and here Barnes sounds most herself and less in thrall to her inspirations. A song of great impact and artfully arranged with interesting parts for all. I would have put a trombone solo on this one. Three Times And I’m Gone is one from the Doleys and a jukebox rocker add the right place in the running order. Barnes sings out and the piano rocks away. Somewhere, the ghost of Ike Turner smiles. Upwards.

I Am More takes things slowly for a misty blues stroll, the band sounding really in control, making the resolves ache, I think Norman Whitfield wrote closing cut You Gotta Believe and it’s funk bass to the fore a la Family Stone.

A soul trip and a half. Congratulations Mahalia and crew.

Pete Sargeant



(Thanks Glenn)

Mahalia Barnes + The Soul Mates new album 'Hard Expectations' is out now.

For more information visit her official website here: