Seratones Fuse Classic Motown and Stax with Synthesizers & Modern Arrangements on ‘Power’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Louisiana-based Seratones – fronted by the gospel-trained vocal powerhouse A.J. Haynes made quite an impact with their 2016 debut, Get Gone but retooled in several ways for this soul-infused recording, Power. They have a new member lineup, a label deal with New West, and a new producer in Cage the Elephant’s Bradley Schultz. Yet, the biggest shift is an emphasis on classic soul music as opposed to the punkish garage-rock sound which remains but not as prominently. Haynes also plays guitar and is joined by returning members, drummer Jesse Gabriel and bassist Adam Davis and newcomers guitarist Travis Stewart and keyboardist Tyran Coker. 

This is a showcase for Haynes as she takes power from vulnerability, putting to music her years fighting for reproductive rights and serving as a counselor at one of Louisiana’s last abortion providers as well as her stance on racial and gender equality, as well as overcoming struggles and seeking justice. Haynes says, “I learned to tap more into my own stories with these songs. I came to recognize that I have this lineage and these inherited experiences that are beautiful and worthy of exploration. The more personal my writing got, the more deeply I was able to connect with people.”

The Shreveport-based five-piece fuses classic Motown and Stax with synthesizers and modern arrangements with Haynes’ confident, potent voice soaring above the joyful noise.  Gleaning titles like “Fear,” “Power,” “Heart Attack,” and “Lie to My Face,” it’s clear that the messaging is direct and free of fluff. You may have already heard the single, “Gotta Get to Know Ya.” The fuzzed-out basslines and distorted drums hearken back to the sound of the debut, but it’s unmistakably soulful – a sound that some have dubbed garage-soul. Yet Haynes’ voice is malleable, full of both unrelenting power and nuance,  “Lie to My Face,” a clear standout, and “Crossfire” being great examples of the latter. On “Sad Boi” the vocal choruses sound like the Stones” “Miss You.” Haynes offers, “With this album, I knew that I really wanted to draw from the pantheon of soul music. Soul was what I danced to in the kitchen with my mother. It’s what I’d come home to at night and listen to on my record player. Things are really heightened and scary and overwhelming in this country right now and returning to soul music was a way of reaching for comfort and security in all of that.”

The opener “Fear” and the propulsive title track have Haynes channeling that vintage soul sound over a contemporary electronic guitar/keyboard swirling backdrop. The thumping percussion, “wall of sound” volume swells, and driving immediacy takes the music from simply danceable fare to in-your-face, listen-to-what-I’m-saying territory.

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