Album Review: The Diplomats of Solid Sound — ‘A Higher Place’

Diplomats of Solid Sound w/ Ben Driscoll and the Posthumous Cowboys

Old Neighborhood Pub, Cedar Rapids — Sunday, June 23 at 4 p.m.

The Diplomats of Solid Sound are back with a new slab of soul! The line-up has changed a little since 2010’s fantastic What Goes Around Comes Around, but the core of the band is still Doug Roberson on guitar; Nate “Count” Basinger, who flew up from Austin to provide his signature Hammond B3 and piano; and Eddie McKinley on sax. Joining them are Forrest Heusinkveld (the Uniphonics) and Ben Soltau (Meteor Cat and 10 of Soul). It’s wonderful to have a reunion of the full trio on vocals with original member Abbie Sawyer returning to join fellow sirens of soul Sarah Cram and Katharine Ruestow in the Diplomettes.

A Higher Place will feel instantly familiar to fans of the band. The Diplomats have always pillaged the dusty sides of 45s from labels like Stax and Volt, Motown and Philles for their groovy booty, and this record is no different. The signature sound starts with Roberson’s big, clean guitar sound: a constantly shifting, hook-filled ground of rhythm and lead. He uses a tasty hammer-on and sliding riff for “Gotta Find That Man.”

Basinger’s organ and piano parts bring us to the church of Booker T. His interplay with the rest of the band shows what’s binding the rhythm together. His expanding bag of tones adds depth and color to the proceedings.

The obvious head and heart of the band is the triple threat of Cram, Ruestow and Sawyer. Each take turns on lead and provide harmonies. The talent and skill of the singers make their performance seem effortless and comfortable, and reminds us why the combination of these singers with what was originally an instrumental band is so exciting.

The Diplomats of Solid Sound recall the heyday of ’60s soul and R&B. This sound has enjoyed a resurgence in the last decade, partially because of a desire to capture music actually performed by musicians and sung by talented vocalists. It doesn’t hurt that it is fun to dance to and has a hook that sticks with you. The Diplomats of Solid Sound are back and ready to fill the dance floors again.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 266.

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