Soul of the River

Posted May 22, 2008 in Music


MEMBERS: Brett Dawson (vocals/guitar); Steve Hansen (vocals/bass); Rene Felix (vocals/drums).

RECENT RELEASE: Soul of the River Free EP (2006)/Soul of the River (not yet released).

KINDRED SPIRITS: Minutemen, Jack Johnson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rolling Stones, Sublime, Dispatch, Firehose, Pearl Jam, jamming, real Riverside people making real Riverside music, the Santa Ana River.



If only session time at Riverside’s Sound Sanctuary was lay-away-able, Soul of the River might have already mastered its 16-song self-titled debut, might’ve already been sharing “pure eargasmic joy” with us 909ers from the depths of the good ol’ Santa Ana. It’s a magic river, Mama, or at least we gather there’s something in that waterway nourishing the Inland Empire (hence the band’s name). Either way, music is a labor of love for this trio and work a labor of affording all the music-making, even if it means driving a jalopy (Hyundai) until all debts are paid and the album’s finally made. The business of recording’s seriously paycheck expending, so it’s a good thing SOTR’s not in it for the bread—the whole band just likes to jam.  

“We would sit around at parties and the guys would break out guitars, and rap . . . it was improvisational rap, or free styling,” singer Brett Dawson says. “Once people got enough alcohol in their systems, they’d start singing, and we’d make up songs on the spot. One of our friends talked us into rehearsing regularly—a new concept to us—and it kind of took off from that.”

So SOTR’s been called “funky rock” or “just a jam band” since forming in 2002, but, really, they’re all about soul—and a little improvisation, termed “musical ESP.” It’s as “if Jack Johnson wrote songs and the Red Hot Chili Peppers played them, with Eddie Vedder singing, except I’m not that good,” Dawson says. True, songs like “Sweet as the Sky” and “We’ve Gone Crazy” remind us of a Pearl Jam beach party, if Vedder turned surfer-bro (brohan?), that is, but we’d nip the Curious George affiliation in the bubbly-toe.

Nearly a year’s passed during SOTR’s endless save/record/save process, garnering sufficient material (including jams about real Riverside people) for a double-disc—but one’s proved trouble enough. At this point only money-will-tell when the unusually long debut will, well, debut. Luckily, for those 909ers who need the “eargasmic joy” now, freebie samplers (a five-song-EP released in 2006) can be easily collected by show or mail and downloaded on just about every music networking-site (ILike, Soundclick, Facebook, you name it).

Meanwhile we await the newest results of the Wash (doesn’t anyone call the Santa Ana that, anymore?) and hope bread floats to the soul of Riverside—you know, to feed the jam.

–Jessica and Kady Bell


Soul of the River will be performing at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life show at La Sierra High School, Riverside, May 31. Donation fee $10



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