I was raised as a Southern Baptist in East Tennessee. I have pressed my back against popping, snapping church pews and I have sang the hymns. I've side-eyed peeked during prayers and I've looked on as adults much older than me raised their hands to the air in reverence and awe of something I didn't quite comprehend. Every Sunday and Wednesday I listened to sermons that I couldn't understand. Watched as preachers and pastors put their hands on brothers and sisters but still, it never would sink in. To this day the Deep South, braggadocious, forehead-wiping, tent-reviving pastoral aesthetic has always fascinated me and I believe I found my favorite iteration of it on a Saturday night of all nights. The sanctuary was The Mill and Mine and the sermon was St. Paul and the Broken Bones'.
This six-piece soul outfit hails from Birmingham, Alabama with a fire and shine that can only be understood once you've stood on the steaming blacktop roads in the sweat-soaked nothing of in-between anywhere in the "Heart of Dixie." Paul Janeway and company carry a swagger that seems to grow as easily on stage as cotton in a field, and in a state whose musical lineage boasts names like Hank Williams, Wilson Pickett, W.C. Haney, and fostered revolutionaries such as Sam Perkins and Rick Hall with his Swampers then you better bring your A-game. 99% humidity and the music gods will not be kind of you don't, but the group need not worry because somewhere in the future, history is carving out a place for them too.
The stage was comprised of a three horn section, organ, guitar, bass and drums giving you this full feeling like a choir behind a pulpit. Then up front with a golden microphone stand and a teal and maroon blazer stood Saint Paul himself. Like a gospel Chameleon changing colors under the lights he marched from side-to-side preaching, almost pleading to his congregation by hitting screaming vocal runs like the one in "Broken Bones and Pocket Change." The kind that brings him to his knees as he questions why love has let him go, and brings your hands in the air in reverence and awe of a power that might be greater than you can grasp.
The passion is undeniable. The charm is exceedingly Southern. Janeway speaks to the crowd in a Dixie drawl that you imagine always says "sir" or "ma'am" and grew up singing hymns and shook the pastor's hand and fell asleep to Percy Sledge and the hum of cicadas in the trees.
I genuinely believe that no matter how big you get or how bright the lights shine that you are still made of where you came from to a degree. It's why I still stop on the gospel channel to hear a few minutes of the towel-biting preacher and why Janeway bites a towel as he motions for the horns to give him everything they have. There is no half-assed discipleship in the church of Paul. Because when the shadows of those who came before you stretch all the way to the Delta you can't be heard from the back row.
Will I be sanctified? Almost certainly.
Should I testify? Not required, but will be requested.
Can I get an amen? Amen.