The one thing that my ex-boyfriend and I agreed upon, besides eating midnight pizza and consuming Bob Dylan records, was our sheer love for soul music, and Nashville’s need for more of it. I would go to Grimey’s to scout out Numero Group Label’s collection of records for him, but mostly to educate myself on the rich history of bygone Motown that somehow got lost in a funk-infused abyss; retro music by Penny and The Quarters provided the soundtrack to our Valentine’s Day, the authentic soundtrack to our fictional connection. It wasn’t until after our relationship ended that I thought to introduce him to Diamond Carter. Unsurprisingly, he loved them too.
What Diamond Carter possesses that makes them so listenable is the ability to translate every moment, each surly and soured relational connection or soiled and entrenched life-experience into the upbeat hopes that infiltrate soul music. Their album Pink Balloon garnered frequent airplay on the radio for its catchy, danceable tracks, and their live performances won over audiences with a raw group chemistry and sugary charisma. But what people might not have noticed, taken by the rich saxophone solos and pristine vocal ranges, was the inherently dark, shady subject matter. It’s an album of addiction, of the drug-laden perils that shrivel and ripen a person’s clinging perspective on life and the world around them. “I call it ‘junkie jams,’” lead singer Tyler Tuohy says. They’re “tales of love with hidden drugs and blatant drugs with hidden love.”
Diamond Carter continues on the style of story telling that birthed the blues, that permeated the onset of early hip hop (and still some today), and travelled through the careers of progressive rock icons a la Lou Reed; it’s authentic and dim and unclean, and it’s real, primal emotion. Their music isn’t born from that existential crisis that seems to pervasively plague artists today who struggle to write about what they know because all they know is art and the choice to make it. It’s born from gritty life experiences that hit you on a deeply personal level, and translated through the ingenuity of a mind that intuits the roots of soul.
The band plays this Thursday at Exit/In.