When we elected to do Soul Week for this week’s “Variations on a Theme,” I don’t think I realized just how daunting a subject it could be. Soul music is a labyrinthine genre of nearly unyielding brilliance, labels big and small possessing a plethora of emotive power and gorgeous grit by one-offs, consistently reliable B-artists, and still unheralded geniuses. With this genre, I found it best to go with my reflexes and riff off of that.
On a dig last summer through the 12-inch soul bins at Dusty Groove, where I browse on at least a biweekly basis, I snagged a radio playlist promo of some of Motown’s greatest hits. The A-Side is Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears,” a song I had always loved but hadn’t heard in some time. A few weeks later, DJing at a neighborhood bar with a superlative sound system, I played the record and was blown away hearing it at that volume with sound quality that pristine. The few patrons seemed to enjoy it too, as I spotted smiles, head nods, and waved arms as the song streamed through the worn lacquer of the bar.