Young Sick Camellia, the third full-length from St. Paul and the Broken Bones, captures a band unafraid to explore new terrain without betraying its established roots and dynamic. This time out, vocalist Paul Janeway probes family dynamics (his own in particular), seeking answers about difference and reconciliation. Along the way, he and his bandmates offer a set of songs that proves their reputation as the premiere act of their kind remains unshaken.

Knowing the record’s themes in advance might be off-putting to some, as might the occasionally spoken word/sonic snippets that crop up between full-blown tunes. Some might argue that such a maneuver reeks of ‘70s concept rock pretensions and accuse Janeway and his mates of overreaching. But those short segments inform the songs that arrive before or between, gliding the listener into the dreamlike atmosphere of a piece such as “Convex,” which at times recalls the narcotic patina surrounding Los Lobos’ classic experimental turn, Kiko. Unlike their Los Angeles counterparts, neither St. Paul nor his Broken Bones allow their feet to slip entirely from linear reality; for all the high mindedness of the themes, this is still music to shake your moneymaker to.

Witness “GotItBad,” a groove so deep and thick you’re momentarily transported to the heart of the 1970s soul, right on the cusp of disco, steeped in funkiness and ace rhythm and horn sections. There’s room for some ethereal turns, such as on “Apollo” and “NASA,” two of the album’s more involved and adventurous passages that lose none of their soul despite their cosmic leanings. “LivWithoutU,” meanwhile, features some of the most hypnotic and imaginative horn lines of the entire set. There, as with the lush “Concave,” we’re treated to the kind of musical unity that only arrives rarely in an act’s career.

The sewing together of these various threads is demanding, no doubt, but the rewards and pleasures fully outweigh any frustrations. The closing “Bruised Fruit,” which clocks in at nearly six minutes, is the moment when everything comes together and one realizes that the ambitions and explorations are really about what rests inside the human heart. This is an album about hopes and fears, dreams unrealized and fulfilled and the ghosts that each leaves behind.

That’s a powerful statement and if one seeks a band capable of rising above its station as a “simple R&B” outfit, then you need to look no further than St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Then again, this is a strong reminder that this genre has always had a wider reach than its swaying rhythms and soulful crooning have suggested. This is music from and about the heart, and it makes for an exhilarating chapter in this band’s history.

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