Way Up South's New Album Reveals the "Joyful Soul" of this Northern, Southern-Inspired Rock Band
"Joyful Soul" would be one way to describe the sound of the North Shore, Massachusetts-based band Way Up South. The band's new album, "Set Yourself Free," takes an evocative journey through the Southern Rock, Americana, and Jam Band genres with a wide variety of song styles ranging from barroom dance blues tunes like "Something to Believe In" to richly layered ballads like "Drive Me Home." In the opening track, "River of Soul," front man and main songwriter Charley Carrozo sings that we are all just a "Drop of Water in a River of Soul" and urges us to let go of the safety of the shallows of the banks of the river for life’s deeper waters, singing "sooner or later you're caught up in the flow." This track sets the tone for an album that is a celebration of a spiritual and soulful journey through life's ups and downs.
Recorded at Mad Oak Studio in Allston, MA, "Set Yourself Free" is the second album in Way Up South's repertoire. According to Carrozo, "Set Yourself Free” is the band's most ambitious project to date. “We wanted to record it mostly live, including the lead vocals, so we held double practices for two months before we went in the studio and ended up recording 11 out of the 12 tracks on the album in one day!" Taken together, the songs take listeners through a narrative that is both joyful ("Feelin' Good"; "All Seem Funny") and bittersweet ("I'm Doin Fine"; "Ain't Life Strange").
The tracks showcase the group's diversity as musicians and songwriters. Their ability "to slip easily between slow ballads like 'Drive Me Home' and rockers like ‘Wolf' illustrates (our) unique and diverse tastes and a ‘Northern,’ southern-inspired rock band," says bassist Brian Girard. Keyboardist Jeff "Bubba" Maider says, “It took time and perseverance to see our ideas through, but it was worth every minute of the unremitting efforts of this crew."
In addition to Carrozo, Girard, and Maider, that "crew" includes Paul Ferguson (lead guitar), Jack Howard (drums), and Chris "Fessa" Nemitz (keyboards). According to Howard, the rapid pace of laying down the tracks for "Set Yourself Free" illustrates how "tight and cohesive the band has become. We really captured the energy of our live performances. We are all very passionate about this music, and we play it from the heart."
With the release of "Set Yourself Free," Way Up South is earning renewed critical acclaim in the New England music scene. Worcester Magazine named it one of the top New England albums of the year, with music writer Victor Infante calling it a "richly textured and deeply affecting piece of work that is sold by some standout songwriting and excellent musicianship." Infante goes on to describe the "sense of joy that runs throughout the album--a joy that is sometimes bittersweet joy and sometimes pure and unadulterated."
For Carrozo, the joyful and hopeful heart of "Set Yourself Free" may be best reflected in the album's "River of Soul." In this lively, country-esque track Carrozo seems to be heeding his own wake-up call when he sings "Wake up now there's love on the horizon. Wake up now this river's gonna roll. Wake up now there's love on the horizon. Drop of water in a river of soul.”
"Highlighted by superb vocals and excellent musical arrangements,
Way Up South knows the meaning of a hook
and exhibits their considerable songwriting process