Southern US Soul in the Midlands: Meet The Atlantic Players

Soul, rhythm and blues, but not as you know it.

The Atlantic Players have that powerful, instantly recognisable Soul sound, with a distinct Southern US rhythm and blues twist.

The Birmingham based nine-piece formed in 2010 following a trip to the States.

Drummer Mick Laffoley visited Memphis, stepping into a smokey bar to discover the brilliance of homegrown Soul music. “[Mick] came back inspired to form an outfit that captured that sound, that feeling… that Soul” explains lead singer Hugh Blackwood.

“From then it pretty much became a process of ‘I know someone who can…’ as killer musician after killer musician came on board the AP train!”

Soul music is, in Hugh’s words, “all about the groove”. It’s slick guitar licks, pounding Hammond organs and impressively strong vocals that set The Atlantic Players apart from the rest. It’s pure, unfiltered Soul to its very core.

Hugh goes on to say, “A classic track that sets [our sound] is Memphis Soul Stew by King Curtis. It captures the tone and sound of what we do, but also think of Otis Redding and Booker T & The MG’s and you’re on the right tracks!”

The Atlantic Players set the bar for authentic Soul music, covering tracks that others may not have heard of. “Motown and the like have had a defining place in Soul music, but we’re primarily focused on the tracks outside the label. If we can’t Shazam it, it’s usually a good sign! It’s artists with the same tenacity as Steve Cropper, Al Green or Carla Thomas, who just never got the break.”

The process of finding these tracks? Digging through record after record of Soul artists to find those one or two tracks that encapsulate The Atlantic Players’ sound: “You can be fizzing about finding a song and then get to rehearse it and very quickly realise it doesn’t work. But yet, there are clearly very many that do and that we find and keep finding. Long may the search continue!”.

Very much known, and loved in Birmingham, The Atlantic Players have hosted and played many incredible nights, including the grand opening of Digbeth’s Soul and retro nightclub The Night Owl in 2015. On Friday, July 13th, they’re back to celebrate its third birthday.

Hugh exclaims: “We had the honour of opening [the club], and we’re excited to help them usher in year three. We haven’t decided on the set yet… too many great songs to choose! One thing is certain – it’s going to be a corking night of sweet Soul music!”.

The Night Owl Third Birthday Weekender includes a Northern Soul, Mod and Motown Allnighter with The Atlantic Players on Friday, July 13th.

The weekender continues with 12 hours of Soul and retro music and a live performance from The Backbone Slips on Saturday, July 14th.

Tickets for both events are available via The Ticketsellers website.

Words: Sophie Hack


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