No matter how much you practice, no matter how many music classes you take, there are intangible qualities that certain musicians possess that cannot be taught, learned, manufactured, or purchased. Soul is something you’re born with or without. Paul Janeway, frontman of the Birmingham, Alabama-based octet, St. Paul and the Broken Bones was undoubtedly born with a heart full of soul. In their 2016 song “Sanctify,” Janeway grips you with his raw, Otis Redding-like vocal talent, and innate ability to swaddle you in his passion, with help from his versatile, nimble bandmates. Beginning with a patient, smoky section of undulating waves of guitar and surreptitiously groovy bass and keyboard riffs, punctuated by Janeway’s falsetto musings, the track has an air of mystery and intrigue to it from the get-go.
The lyrics in this portion emphasize the symbiotic nature of life, with subtle lines like “What good is a flower / Without no sun,” and “What good is a light / With no dark,” which is brought to life as the song transitions into an energetic, almost ballad-like piece, bringing in the full band, horns ablaze, allowing Janeway to belt out his wish to live a life that he feels is real, which contains experiences at positive and negative end of the spectrum. “Sanctify” moves back and forth between quiet, relatively calm sections, and lively, impassioned passages, all while keeping a consistently gentle tempo, perhaps reflecting the nature of the kind of like Paul Janeway wants to live. Regardless of your religious affiliations, or lack thereof, it is easy to appreciate and understand the spiritual quest that St. Paul and the Broken Bones take us on in “Sanctify.”