Sweet Soul Music Alive & Well in Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, August 5, 2013
‘Paperboy’ hot off the press
By Robert Palmer Staff Writer | Posted: Sunday, August 4, 2013 11:00 pm
MUSCLE SHOALS — Eli “Paperboy” Reed isn’t 30 years old yet, but the singer and guitarist is steeped in southern soul as well as rhythm and blues in a way one would expect from a much older person.
Reed was at FAME Recording Studios last week, recording two tracks, one of which is slated to be on the soundtrack CD of the movie “Muscle Shoals.” He chose Jimmy Hughes’ classic “Steal Away,” one of FAME’s earliest hits, for the soundtrack.
Wednesday afternoon, he was working with a horn section on a rousing version of the Violinaires’ 1960s gospel song “I Don’t Know What the World Is Coming To.” He said the song could be included as a bonus track on an upcoming CD.
For Reed, a student of soul, R&B, blues and gospel, the visit to FAME and Muscle Shoals was a dream come true.
“ ‘Steal Away’ has become my song” in live performance, he said of the 1964 hit that launched FAME Records. “I’d read Peter Guralnick’s ‘Sweet Soul Music,’ and I knew that was from FAME and Muscle Shoals.”
Reed grew up listening to his father’s record collection and playing harmonica to his guitar tunes.
“I discovered Muscle Shoals when I got into rhythm and blues and reading liner notes on record jackets,” he said.
As a teenager, he said, he had difficulty relating to people, and was especially shy around girls. Music helped overcome those things.
“Listening to Otis Redding’s ‘Pain In My Heart,’ and James Carr, that spoke to me,” he said. “For me, it was real.”
Reed assembled some of Muscle Shoals’ veteran session musicians while working at FAME. The band included Jimmy Johnson, Kelvin Holly and Larry Byrom on guitars, David Hood on bass, Spooner Oldham on keyboards, and Mark Beckett, son of the late Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section keyboardist Barry Beckett, on drums.
“Working with them was pretty epic for me,” he said.
“It took us about 35 minutes to get this take,” he said, referring to “I Don’t Know What the World Is Coming To,” as it was playing back on the control room speakers.
The track has the hallmark classic FAME sound, which is what Reed was shooting for. He’s a student of the studio — and owner/producer Rick Hall — as much as he is of the music recorded there.
“Muscle Shoals has an identifiable sound. What Rick Hall did — everything is peaking (on the recording equipment). The drums are exploding out of the mix,” he said. “It’s hot, the band is hot. It’s exciting.
“There is some distortion, and that’s in a good way. Some people try to eliminate the noise. It’s crackling all the time, and you can hear this room.”
While Reed, who is signed to Warner Brothers Records, was pleased with the work he recorded at FAME and the opportunity to work with veteran Muscle Shoals musicians.
The avid record collector was especially excited when studio manager Rodney Hall opened a special door for him.
“Rodney let me go through the vaults and get some stuff,” Reed said, a big grin on his face. “That was great!”
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.