What is soul? Does it parallel Justice Stewart's definition of pornography in Jacobellis v. Ohio—you just know it when you see or, in this case, hear it? Sharon Jones has soul, as does Lee Fields. But what about The Alabama Shakes? Maroon 5? Where's the holy line of demarcation for authenticity of soul?
Lake Street Dive certainly looks the part of a retro soul act. The group went viral in 2012 when a video of the quartet performing The Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" on a street corner in Brighton, Massachusetts—a hop down the Green Line from the New England Conservatory of Music, where they formed—spread. They sported cool vintage clothes, played acoustic instruments, and used one old-fashioned microphone.
Singer Rachael Price remains the star of the show. Her voice is magnetic, her stage presence commanding. But as the band's new Side Pony proves, the players behind her—guitarist and trumpeter Mike Olson, upright bassist Bridget Kearney, and drummer Mike Calabrese—contribute clever, creative arrangements. The retro vibe rules here, sure, but the cross-generational blend of modern pop and vintage soul also matters.
Whether Lake Street Dive has authentic soul or not, that's for you to decide. Their crossover success, though, seems a foregone conclusion.