“Love, Peace, and Music” can be musically interpreted an endless variety of ways, depending on the artists handling translation. San Fernando Valley ensemble Soul Scratch, who claim that phrase as a mission statement, take their lead from 1960s and ’70s soul in the muscular vitality of their performances and arrangements and, most importantly, the thematic relevance of their songs.
Their 2012 EP “Meet Me in the Sun,” though well done, favored style over substance; 2014’s full-length “Down the Road” dug deeper and stretched into gospel and acoustic blues. 2017’s “Pushing Fire” garnered admiring reviews and yielded tough groovers “Odessa Heat” and “Be Kind” and socially conscious burner “Pacified,” informed by the legacies of Solomon Burke and Curtis Mayfield: “Where’s that outreach now/ Where’s my people on the street/ These corporations got a voice/ While we sit silent in defeat.”
Massachusetts-raised frontman Dale Spollett possesses one of those passionate, open-throated voices that turns heads. His gutsy, all-in vocal style has earned understandable comparisons to St. Paul & the Broken Bones frontman Paul Janeway and gospel-soul belter Mike Farris, though he does not boast Janeway’s theatricality or Farris’ rock ‘n’ roll swagger. Instead he brings unabashed, almost sweet sincerity that works like contrasting harmony against guitarist Joel Givertz’s leaner tones. As the band pumps out hard rhythms and horn riffs, Spollett bites into the lines of “America” with a conviction that matches the urgency of the Stax-style single, a funky slab of righteous commentary that Colemine dropped in April:
“Misconception runs amok today
Get to know your neighbor and you’ll see
The struggle’s happening for everyone
Only us coming together sets us free…
Hold up, is this America
Look at what you’re leaving behind
Is this the future that we struggled for
The world we fought so hard to find…
What’s wrong with the world today?”
“We All Bleed the Same” was issued that same week, in the aftermath of the mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand: “I thought that love had conquered/ I hoped that hate had lost/ How could one man disagree/ And 49 souls pay the cost.”
As citizens continue caring for the wounded and mourning the dead in Dayton, El Paso and Gilroy, the song’s slow-burning anguish could not be more timely.
Soul Scratch performs at One Colorado courtyard, 41 Hugus Alley, Old Pasadena, 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7; free admission. Info: (626) 564-1066. soulscratchband.com, onecolorado.com