"Soul of The South"
Ramblin’ Records (826663-12353)
By Michael Popke
Thirty years ago, in 1981 while The Marshall Tucker Band was on hiatus following the death of original bassist Tommy Caldwell, vocalist Doug Gray entered a South Carolina studio to record a solo album.
Industry execs directed him to indulge his love of pop and soul on tunes penned by both renowned and lesser-known writers, including a pre-fame Michael Bolton (“Still Thinking of You”).
Unfortunately, the sessions were curtailed (and Gray’s solo deal dropped) after only eight songs were recorded; The Marshall Tucker Band regrouped, and the unheard tracks were shelved until now. The songs on “Soul of the South,” impeccably recorded, will leave longtime fans wondering about the direction Gray’s career might have taken had that solo career not been so elusive. Would The Marshall Tucker Band still even exist today?
Historically, the 26-and-a-half-minute “Soul of the South” has major significance: Because the four other members of The Marshall Tucker Band participated in the sessions, these are the only songs by the living members of the group at that time that have not been previously released, according to Barry Alfonso’s liner notes. The album stands alone, but it also adds a new chapter The Marshall Tucker Band’s ever-evolving saga.