[ALBUM REVIEW] Mahalia Barnes & The Soul Mates – Hard Expectations


Love is Fleeting
Hard Expectations
My Love
Ain’t Nobody Else
Shake Things Up
Hard Times
Loneliness is Cold
Move On
Walk All Over Me
Three Times + I’m Gone
I am More
You Gotta Believe

Reviewed by Casper of Rohan

Here it comes my fellow fine music aficionados, the third album from Mahalia and The Soul Mates and you need look no further than this collection for a fulsome, frothing helping of soulful music magnificence.   If you think that’s laying it on thicker than Bruce the ocker making Vegemite toast, than wait until your ears afford aural appreciation to this sensational work and I believe you will find yourself suitably gobsmacked and in melodic glee.

No prizes will be cast toward those who guessed that this offering was recorded at Freight Train Studios and was mixed at Apple Street Studios but some may be unaware that the album was recorded, produced and mixed Benjamin Rodgers who is also bassist with The Soul Mates.  While we are frolicking amongst the appropriate titles and apt descriptions, lets introduce those who really need none at all, but maybe someone out there may not be as familiar with The Soul Mates as they bloody well should be.  So, we have Franco Raggatt on guitar, Clayton Doley on organ, piano, Lachlan Doley on clave, organ and Mr David Hibbard providing his percussive prowess at the kit.  We also enjoy the beautiful backing vocals provided by Jade MacRae, Juanita Tippins, Prinnie Stevens and Joy Yates.

If that list of fabulous musicians hasn’t got you thrashing at you keyboard on the pre-order pages then lets up the ante by introducing the astounding work of the additional contributors.  Four-time Blues Music Award and a 2015 British Blues Award nominee Kirk Fletcher (The Fabulous Thunderbirds) lends his particular guitar skills on all tracks and the magnificent blues/rock powerhouse himself, Mr Joe Bonamassa provides his brilliance via guitar solo on the track Move On.

The first of nine original tracks on this album is Love is Fleeting and with most people having an appreciation for Mahalia’s musical upbringing, it is quite reasonable to expect big things from her creative self.  From the opening track, our lofty expectations are well and truly exceeding in the most exciting way.

In fact, we commence the album with chin rubbing, pompous, professor like pondering with a distinct air of superiority and by the time Walk All Over me arrives, we find ourselves resembling more a kid before Christmas, giggling with excited glee.

Hard Expectations was written by Don Walker who has been with Cold Chisel since before they were Cold Chisel, and who here provides a fantastic follow up to the opener.  Mahalia does this track tremendous justice by takes on a distinct emotive tone in here voice, indeed a longing for the subject of the song to step up to the plate rather than be another in a line of disappointing suitors.   The backing vocals and musical accompaniment are mixed to perfection by this stage you are blissfully aware that you are going to enjoy a magnificent journey.

The brilliant blending of soul smacked, classic and contemporary rhythm and blues stylings are represented beautifully and a favorite from the list proves blissfully elusive as a result.   Tracks like My Love, Hard Times, Three Times and I’m Gone and Walk All Over Me all struggle for pride of place as my favourite song, but please the fight becomes futile because on the tremendous diversity of the individual tracks.  The entire album has a distinctly organic ‘feel’ as though all these tremendous musicians have, quite by coincidence, brought their A game to a jam session and someone thought to hit record.  The laugh on completion of Walk All Over Me speaks volumes about how the band feel about these accomplishments and I must humbly agree.  I have left Move On from the list of favourites as an attempt to disguise my shameless favouritism, because to be honest, my chin hits the floor every time Joe Bonamassa puts plectrum to strings and this track is no exception to that rule.

A superb rendition of the Curtis Mayfield classic Hard Times and the much adored You Gotta Believe, released by The Pointer Sisters back in 1976, provide beautiful accompaniment to the new works and the latter is extremely demonstrative of assembling the right people, with the right talents and what magic can be achieved.

Hard Expectations is an astounding collection of magnificent songs performed to perfection, gob droppers one and all, but also carries that natural feel of a live show from talented performers at the peak of their performance.  Produced perfectly to highlight the organic bond established between all the protagonists and truly representative of the skills we have come to expect from Mahalia.  Moreover, in the face of unreasonable expectations, Hard Expectations still manages to thrill and astound.

Bravura one and all.  Thoroughly superb.

You can pre-Order Hard Expectations on itunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/hard-expectations/1365995905