For me, soul lies solely (erk) within the human voice. Yes, musical instruments all have their own timbres, individual attributes that make you say, yeah, that’s a violin, rather than a trumpet. But it’s more difficult to assign human emotion to a bit of wood or a tube of brass, no matter how expressively it’s played. Soul is the subtle sadness in Smokey Robinson‘s voice as he sings ‘Tracks Of My Tears’, or the sheer force of emotion on Ray Lamontagne‘s ‘Trouble’. Jeff Buckley is particularly masterful in the operatic vocal field, and there are scores of examples that highlight this. ‘Lover You Should’ve Come Over’ has a line that says “She’s a tear that hangs inside my soul forever”, and it kills me every time I hear it.
But let’s not give the boys all of the credit. The vitriol and pure grief in Martha Wainwright‘s ‘Bloody Motherfucking Asshole’ could stun the coldest heart into submission. Patti Smith expels a particularly profound type of gravelly-throated soul in her breathtaking rendition of ‘Gloria’. Soul is often assigned to a particular style of music – slow, with fabricated drumbeats and soft production. But in my mind, soul is the cry of emotion, the hint of pain, the rush of love that can be heard in the voice.
Tomorrow’s meaning of soul comes fromÂ Dan Workman of Ten Kens.