The Revelations may have a sound that's rooted in classic soul music, but don't expect them to show up in jumpsuits. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based group draws much of its musical inspiration from southern soul of the 1960s and '70s. While lead vocalist Tre Williams' expressive voice brings to mind a host of iconic singers from that era, many of their lyrics focus on contemporary life, and the group dresses New York street sharp—no big hair or other '70s fashion holdovers.
Guitarist Wes Mingus reveals that despite their love of the older sounds, the band members are focused on being part of the contemporary soul scene.
"We're trying to have one foot in that past, but still have another one moving forward," he explains. "We don't want to be pigeonholed as a throwback act."
The core members of the group (Williams, Mingus and drummer Gintas Janusonis) first came together in 2008 when Williams was recording songs with Bob Perry, now the band's producer and manager. They brought in Mingus and Janusonis as session musicians on the project.
When the first song they recorded ("I Don't Want to Know," which has become their most well-known song) came together well, the musicians started thinking that the project might become something bigger.
"A couple of songs into it, we realized that there was something in the chemistry that transcended the session work," Mingus remembers.
Although the band remains based in New York, Mississippi played an important role in The Revelations' initial success. When they released their first EP in 2008, WKXI ("Kixie 107") in Jackson was the first radio station in the country to play The Revelations. The first single, "I Don't Want to Know," caught on with Mississippi audiences and by early 2009, the group played its first concert in the state.
"We started going down to Mississippi and doing shows," Mingus says. "And still, to this day, we have a much stronger foundation in Mississippi than even here in New York."
The group continues to play in Mississippi and around the Deep South on a regular basis. It recorded its latest CD, "Concrete Blues," at Royal Studios in Memphis.
Royal was the home studio of Willie Mitchell, the late music producer who recorded Al Green's '70s-era albums as well as many other albums by giants of soul.
Mitchell passed away in 2010, but The Revelations were able to work at Royal with Mitchell's son, Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell. Some veteran Memphis musicians were part of the sessions, including organist Charles Hodges (who played on Al Green's classic records) and bassist James Alexander from the Bar-Kays. Mingus recalls that everyone knew it would be a memorable session when they first walked in the door.
"Charles was sitting at the organ and warming up on (Al Green's) 'Let's Stay Together,'" he recalls. "Our jaws just dropped. ... It was the guy on that organ who played on all those great songs. We realized we had to bring our A-game to be worthy of this company."
The Revelations are expanding their touring to the national level, but Mingus says the acceptance they've received from Mississippi audiences has been an important validation for the group.
"To be able to take the music back to where it came from and to be recognized and appreciated as being authentic, that's about as good as it gets for us," he says.
The Revelations return to Mississippi as one of the featured groups at the Babalooza Festival on Saturday, May 5, on Duling Green in Fondren, starting at noon. Other performers include Asleep At The Wheel, Mingo Fishtrap, Buddy and the Squids, Patrick Harkins and Daves Highway. Admission is $10. Call 601-292-7121 for details or visit the event's Facebook page or ardenland.net. For more information on the group, visit http://www.therevelations.net. The band will also perform in a blues show at the Vicksburg City Auditorium on Friday, May 11. Call 601-955-4894 for more information.