The Revelations featuring Tré Williams represents a renewed dawning in soul music, one that marries the concrete jungle grit of the streets with the midnight blues of the rural South. The rawness of Stax and propulsive drive of Motown has been re-imagined for contemporary listeners needing relief from timeless problems. Far from a historical artifact straining to use yesterday’s sound as tomorrow’s gimmick, the songs painstakingly crafted on the Revelations’ debut project, Deep Soul, are born from the pain, frustrations and experience of soul men struggling to give expression to their lives and loves through song. To cull the level of unabashed honesty present on these tunes requires a return to one’s roots to give them the proper weight, meaning and, most importantly, a resonance for the world.
Few voices resonate like that of baritone powerhouse Tré Williams. As bandmate and supporting vocalist, Rell, declared, “His voice fills a room.” One listen is all it takes to be hooked to his silk and gravel tone reminiscent of David Ruffin and Johnnie Taylor. But the awe and respect for Tré’s cavernous four-octave instrument is not limited to fellow vocalists. Ever since Tré first left the projects of Daytona Beach, Florida for New York, his church- honed artistry and searing sound has enraptured anyone who encounters it, from the ever-critical audience of Harlem, New York’s Amateur Night at the Apollo, to the rap game’s seasoned veterans up and down the east coast. His soul-shaking baritone landed him on Petey Pablo’s 2004 title track of Diary of a Sinner: 1st Entry; “I-95,” the 2005 track by Styles P of The L.O.X.; and into a record contract with hip-hop icon Nas’s Ill Will Records, who had Tré shining on the single “Let There Be Light” off Nas’s Hip-Hop Is Dead. Although years of hip-hop grind earned Tré industry praise and accolades, his much-anticipated 2007 debut, The Depths of My Soul, was never released.
Rell, Tré’s Deep Soul co-lyricist, has his own hip-hop story of glory and patience. The first R&B male singer signed to Roc-a-fella Records, the multi-talented Rell was a featured vocalist or lyricist on the label’s releases for nearly a decade. A self-professed team player, Rell has worked with a virtual “who’s who” of urban music, including: Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq, Kanye West, and Dr. Dre. While Rell released a few singles of his own—including the club anthem “Love For Free”—his much-anticipated album never materialized amidst the much-publicized devolution of the founding partnership of Roc-a-fella. Far from bitter, Rell moved on to greater success in founding an independent record label in his native South Carolina, writing the title track to Usher’s Here I Stand (2008) and several others for his forthcoming solo project, and, eventually combining forces with Tré to lend his refined tenor-baritone and proven pen to Deep Soul.
Both Tré and Rell have experienced the kind of rough times characteristic of hip hop lore. These hard knocks experiences, however, have brought a man’s man sensibilities to these vulnerable stories about love, loss and life. Both also agree that the organic magic they’ve created with The Revelations’ producer Bob Perry, an A&R man for Koch Records and former owner of Landspeed Records, could never have happened under their previous label deals.
Certainly independently releasing a sample- and rapper-free album sporting all live instrumentation from singer/songwriters best known for their hip hop contributions was an unconventional move in today’s skittish music business. It took the bold vision of hip hop producer Bob Perry (AZ, Dwele, Cormega), a crate-digging soul connoisseur with his own 15 year hip hop pedigree to look past the project’s obvious challenges to claim that rare opportunity to create that special magic his idols Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin did with Ray and Aretha. It only took one listen to Tré Williams’ voice to know that his desire to re-imagine Southern Soul for a contemporary audience could finally be realized. Soon Perry was putting together a band of esteemed talents and tirelessly working with Tré and Rell at Chop Shop Recording in Brooklyn NY.
For all involved in The Revelations featuring Tré Williams, it seems patience has its rewards. Even if Deep Soul wasn’t such an irrefutable instant classic, working everyday to create its unique sound with The Revelations band is hitting the jackpot for any singer or producer. Imagine with rich experience of crafting and jamming with esteemed guitarist Wes Mingus (Bilal, Leela James), drummer Gintas Janusonis (Erykah Badu, Branford Marsalis), bassist Josh Werner (Matisyahu, Sly and Robbie), keyboardist Borahm Lee (Wyclef, Lauryn Hill) and legendary arranger and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Adams (Herbie Mann, Eddie Kendricks, The Main Ingrediant, Black Ivory and many more). Now imagine seeing them in a live show that will rival the live revues of James Brown or Ike and Tina Turner.
It appears with the release of Deep Soul and the debut of The Revelations featuring Tré Williams; real music fans have hit their own lottery, one of rich music where nothing’s artificial, nothing’s counterfeit, and everything’s just pure, all natural soul.