Soul-R Fusion sees its mission as more than just making tuneful music. “It might sound corny, but I feel like we are actually putting out positive vibrations into the universe,” says Alex Goodell, who plays bass alongside vocalist and guitarist Tim Koehler. “Part of why we like playing music is it makes other people feel good.”
The acoustic duo sought to tap into that wellspring of positivity for their second album, “Like a Circle ‘Round the Sun.” Recorded with local producer (and The Clams frontman) Jeff Sanchez, the double album captures a band growing in both comfort and confidence. Soul-R Fusion will celebrate its release with a special concert at Beale Street Barber Shop on Saturday night.
Goodell and Koehler met in 2014, while playing a benefit concert at the Crab Pot in Surf City. Soon after, they joined the band The Lyndes with keyboardist Dylan Lee, but the project was short lived. “I think we played twice and broke up,” Koehler recalls, laughing. They took refuge in Lee’s other band, The Clams. Goodell joined the group as its bass player, with Koehler following behind on harmonica. Later, when Koehler amassed a collection of his own songs, he turned to Goodell to record them.
Soul-R Fusion’s first, self-titled album was released in 2016. The album featured Roger Manning on drums, and comprised 10 songs mostly in the style of Cat Stevens and Van Morrison. “Like a Circle ‘Round the Sun” continues in the same vein, with a few added wrinkles. Standout track “Diving Duck Blues” features a driving, staccato bass line and a bluesy harmonica solo. “Crazy Heart” adds distorted electric guitar, courtesy of the band’s friend, John P. Rogers.
The new, 18-track album was recorded at Sanchez’s home in Hanover Heights—a convenience since the house doubles as The Clams’ rehearsal space. Sanchez recorded with Soul-R Fusion every Sunday from January to April of 2019, working around the duo’s schedules (Goodell teaches biology at James Sprunt Community College, and Koehler works as a donations truck driver for Habitat for Humanity). Despite the time constraints, the band insists recording was a breeze. Goodell and Koehler intended to flesh out the songs, but quickly found the intimacy of their live performances worked in their favor. Many were captured in one take, and Sanchez shrewdly recorded Goodell’s fretless bass in the front of the mix, creating a dynamic of equal billing among acoustic guitar and bass. “Basically, what you hear on the CD is the exact same thing you hear us playing live,” Koehler says.
Goodell and Koehler still play in The Clams. “It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing music,” Koehler says. Still, both musicians admit a unique je ne sais quoi exists among them. “There’s something that happens when we play together because [Alex] plays fretless and she plays very melodically, and I play very rhythmically for a guitar player, so it’s a really a yin and yang kind of thing,” Koehler explains.
Sanchez agrees. “The songs blew me away.” He cites Koehler’s prolificacy as a songwriter and Goodell’s dexterity on bass. The wealth of material necessitated a double album, and the band still has new songs ready to go. Not that they’re rushing things.
Soul-R Fusion chose Beale Street Barber Shop for its album release in part for its funky vibe. The venue, which operates as a full-service barber shop during the day, is filled nearly floor to ceiling with Elvis memorabilia. Owner Mark Sinnis’ commitment to original music also gels with Soul-R Fusion. They see it as an opportunity to continue to spread their message of positivity.
“I think positivity is good to throw out there as much as possible, whether we do that vibrationally or with our words,” Koehler says. “We try to throw a bit of good karma out there and hopefully it comes back.”