New York City duo the London Souls finished its sophomore album in 2012, but then the album sat on the shelf for three years – for a pretty serious reason.
“A couple of months after we recorded it, I got into a bad car wreck and things were really uncertain,” says guitarist/vocalist Tash Neal, who was the victim of a hit-and-run.
So it’s some small miracle that last week, “Here Come the Girls” was finally released. On Friday, the London Souls (Neal and drummer/vocalist Chris St. Hilaire) play Visulite Theatre.
To say Neal had a lot to overcome to put the album out is an understatement.
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After the accident, doctors performed emergency brain surgery and Neal was placed in a medically induced coma. “The diagnosis was six months to a year and then maybe I’d walk and talk again,” he says.
But Neal shocked his doctors when he awoke talking, and he eventually checked himself out of the hospital against their advice.
In the aftermath of the accident, he’d almost forgotten about the London Souls’ album. Hearing it for the first time was like a revelation.
“That was more vindication,” he says. “I thought, ‘That’s us?’ It was amazing. It was a pride thing and it connected me again. I even remembered (lyrics).”
And once Neal was able to pick up a guitar again, he began to feel more like himself.
“I saw that guitar and it connected me to a deeper part of myself that an accident can’t take away,” he says.
The versatile “Here Come the Girls” – which hops from Cream-y blues riffs and Lenny Kravitz-style funk to harmony-driven Beatles-schooled pop and psychedelic folk with a thread of ’60s and ’70s nostalgia throughout – has received a warm reception.
It’s a long time coming for Neal and St. Hilaire, who met as teenagers but began playing together over the phone while Neal was going to college in Washington, D.C.
“This was before Skype,” he says. “I have my phone to my head and my guitar. Chris is playing drums in Brooklyn.”
With an eclectic mix of styles, London Souls is able to fit on a variety of bills, from touring with roots-rock outfit Sons of Bill to SXSW and Jazz Fest to opening for Warren Haynes or the Roots.
“That comes down to our upbringing,” Neal says. “Chris’ family has roots in Trinidad. Chris was a rapper, too, and grew up with hip-hop and rock on the radio. At the same time, around the house we had the Temptations and ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone.’”
“That was the best part about making the record,” Neal continues. “We’ve known each other for a long time and have the same influences and love for music and tastes and standards. We’re both multi-instrumentalists who start with the bare bones to make the best song possible.”
While some musicians would continue tweaking an album for years if given the time, Neal and St. Hilaire agreed not to. They were completely satisfied with the album, which was produced by Eric Krasno of Soulive.
“We knew that was it,” he says. “It was one of those things when you’re just so proud of something. You just know.”
Courtney’s blog: cltsoundbites.blogspot.com
WHEN: 9 p.m. Friday.
WHERE: Visulite Theatre, 1615 Elizabeth Ave.
DETAILS: 704-358-9200; www.visulite.com.