Southern Soul is today's extension of classic rhythm and blues as it was played and appreciated in the 60's and early 70's, and as it's still being played on the Stations of The Deep South. Southern Soul music--with its own stars, its own audience and day-to-day hits--is the resurgence of that verse-and-chorus, story-telling tradition. In addition to Motown, Memphis, Philly and Chicago-style rhythm and blues, Southern Soul borrows freely from country, gospel, rock, pop and many other influences. It is not simply the "blues," with which it is often confused, and which traces its roots through a decidedly narrower, less danceable, lineage. Probably the most accurate synonym for "southern soul" is "country soul." Southern Soul is more laid-back and low-tech than the "urban" sound that dominates today's R&B charts. It's more liable to include a narrative, it's less likely to be frenetic, it's grittier.

    Southern Soul doesn't mean the music has to come from the Deep South, although most of it does. It does mean that it's most likely to be appreciated in the South, in the Black community. They call the music Southern Soul because the South is where it's nurtured. The South is where it has a chance of entering people's real lives.

    For the lifelong music lover the attraction of Southern Soul, apart from its excellent musical quality, is its volume. Because of the genre's long neglect and marginalization by the mainstream media, the new fan of Southern Soul music can easily spend years of pleasure just catching up with all the Southern Soul artists and chitlin' circuit "hits" thriving beneath the national radar.

Southern Soul Music Definition

Chitlin' Circuit

What Is Southern Southern Soul

    The "Chitlin' Circuit," like "Tin Pan Alley" and "Motown" and other legendary music locations, is both a real and symbolic term for the on-and-off-again venues--shoebox-sized bars, clubs, cafes and increasingly in the 21st century, casinos-- that support traditional rhythm and blues in a tenuous but tenacious thread through America's mostly rural (or low-profile urban) Bible Belt.

    Augmented by "headliner" concerts and open-air, summer music festivals catering to fans with coolers and lawn chairs, and further nourished and preserved by isolated radio stations and deejays, record stores, and a handful of humble but artistically-flourishing recording studios, the chitlin' circuit provides the heavily-black areas of the American South with contemporary rhythm and blues artists specializing in traditional (60's-style) soul music.

    One of the hardest things for a newcomer to get a handle on is the relationship of Southern Soul-style rhythm and blues to traditional blues. In my meanderings around the Delta through the years, I've come to the conclusion that every radio station and every deejay has a distinctive approach. All Southern disc jockeys, however, would agree that Southern Soul does refer to a genre distinct from straight-ahead blues. Southern Soul descends from the classic R&B of the sixties (which, in addition to Motown, Philly, Memphis, and Chicago-style rhythm and blues includes rock, country, pop, and many other influences) while the "blues," of course, traces its roots through a decidedly narrower lineage of blues musicians.

    The frustration of those of us who are spreading the gospel of the "new" rhythm and blues stems from the fact that the marketplace as reflected in "Billboard's" blues charts reflects only traditional blues. It's not the fault of the charts. Traditional blues is the only music the majority of the music-buying public associates with the genre, or even knows exists.

    Naturally, this engenders a "circle-the-wagons" mentality on the part of Deep South deejays and station managers. They're naturally protective of the emerging Southern Soul scene, and they understand that frequent radio airplay is the "nourishment"—the photosynthesis, if you will--the emerging genre needs to grow. When your Daddy B. Nice drives north to Memphis or west to New Orleans from the epi-center of the music in central Mississippi, he always does so with a certain regret because he knows that the magical and still-fragile world of Southern Soul will begin to dissolve on his radio air waves, and that the more traditional blues legacies of Memphis and New Orleans will begin to take over—take over, at least, any "alternative" spot not already monopolized by commercial R&B.

    But Southern Soul deejays do insert straight-ahead blues into their rotations. Some, like DJ Outlaw of Jackson's WMPR, emphasize it. After all, who knows better than black deejays the significance of the blues?

    So you'll hear O.V. Wright's "A Nickel And A Nail." You'll hear B.B. King's "I Paid The Cost To Be The Boss." King, by the way, still comes back to his hometown, Indianola, Mississippi, for a celebration that annually embraces the current headliners of Southern Soul.

Difference Between Southern Soul & The Blues

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