Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S



Phil Driver's Unsigned Soul Column (June)

Phil Driver's Unsigned Soul on Blues & Soul
Phil Driver's Unsigned Soul on Blues & Soul Live Tropical Fish: The Day Is Too Short To Be Selfish United We Cure: Various Leela James: My Soul Avery Sunshine (ALBUM) Yahzarah: The Ballad Of Purple Saint James Jonathan Butler: So Strong Richard Earnshaw: In Time Wadz: So Smooth, The Funk Album Diesler: Tie Breakers DeRobert & The Half Truths: Soul In A Digital World Angela Johnson; It's Personal Carmichael: Fantasy Rain Mirenda Rosenberg: Placeholder


A foreign website recently described me as the Simon Cowell of soul music. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or offended. One thing’s for sure; I’m not Simon Cowell. I know this for a fact because I’m not a millionaire, I don’t have an unhealthy influence over the music industry and, to the very best of my knowledge, I’ve never shagged Sinita.

But I can see the point they were trying to make. My radio show specialises in finding and promoting new talent, and my record label signs up music from these artists and puts it out on compilation CDs. Because of this, I spend a great deal of time listening to new music and telling its creators what I think of it. So, in this respect, I guess Mr Cowell and I may have something in common.

But where we differ is in how we express our opinions. I nearly always agree with what he says on shows like the X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. The problem is that I don’t generally agree with how he says it.

I’ve never subscribed to the cruel-to-be-kind ethos. Sure, artists need to be told if their music and/or singing isn’t very good and, for their own sake, should be dissuaded from spending time and money chasing an impossible dream. But surely the truth can be relayed without resorting to rudeness and personal insults?

This subject of giving feedback crops up frequently in my conversations with other DJs. The vast majority of them say that if they receive a music submission they don’t like they simply ignore it. I’ve always found this rather odd, especially because DJs love getting feedback about their shows and are always complaining that they don’t get enough feedback..!

My policy with Soul Unsigned has always been to respond to all submissions that I receive. It’s a policy that I sometimes regret, but not one that I’m about to give up any time soon.

Of course, it’s easy to comment on the good stuff because artists love to hear that I appreciate their music and plan to use it on the radio show. Unfortunately, it’s much more difficult giving feedback on the not-so-good stuff. And I receive an awful lot of that.

I get submissions where the vocals are great but music just isn’t up to the job. The independent soul scene is littered with good singers who are (or who work with) crap musicians. Far too often the music sounds like it’s been produced at home with a Casio keyboard and a very cheap drum machine. I try to be positive and compliment the artist on his or her singing, but I’m also up front about the fact that the production quality isn’t at the level required for a radio show.

Some artists reply and thank me for my honest feedback. Others choose to ignore it. A very small percentage take issue with it, but the fact that I never see their music on other DJ’s playlists suggests that my assessment is usually shared by the majority.

Giving feedback is considerably harder when the problem is with the vocals rather than the music. For reasons I’ve yet to work out, artists seem to take criticism of their singing much more personally than comments about their musicianship or production skills. Unfortunately, the independent soul scene is littered with good musicians who think they’re good singers.

In these cases I still take the approach, rightly or wrongly, to be honest. More often than not I just say that their voice isn’t doing it for me. Sometimes they’ll send me more tracks, which usually confirm that they really can’t sing. Very rarely, a singer’s voice just clicks into place on one particular track. It’s those special occasions and those one-off tracks that make giving the initial feedback worthwhile. If I’d ignored their first email, that killer track would have gone undiscovered.

So, if you’re reading this and you’re an artist who is considering sending me some music, please do so. I’m really looking forward to hearing it and giving you my feedback. If I like it, I’ll tell you. And if I don’t like it, I’ll tell you that too. As it says on our website….please don’t ask for my honest opinion unless you really want my honest opinion!

Top 5 Independent Albums

Live Tropical Fish – Life is too short

United We Cure – Various Artists

Leela James – My soul

Avery Sunshine – Sunshine

Yahzarah – The Ballad Of Purple Saint James

Jonathan Butler – So Strong


Just Under The Radar

Richard Earnshaw – In Time

Wadz – So Smooth, The Funk Album

Diesler – Tie Breakers

Tom Glide & The Luv Allstars – In the name of luv

DeRobert & The Half Truths – Soul in a digital world


The Essential Playlist

A selection of tracks that have featured on the radio show throughout May.

Angela Johnson – Be myself (CD Its Personal)
Avery Sunshine – Blessin me (CD Sunshine)
Carmichael – That’s my song (CD Fantasy Rain)
Clarisse Albrecht – Voce me da (CD The 2010 Summer Session)
Claudia Hayden – God is watching (promo)
Danielle Haynes – I want to be close (CD Love’s Never Lost)
DeRobert & The Half Truths – The joy (CD Soul In A Digital World)
Dessy Di Lauro – Shout out 2.0 (promo)
Diesler – Various (CD Tie Breakers)
DuFunk – Various (CD Shake it)
Georg Levin – Everything must change (CD Everything Must Change)
Hog Pin – Can you drop it (CD Soul Time)
Jay Diamond – Touch (promo)
Johnny Britt – Don’t leave me this way (CD There Is Nobody)
Katie Cole – Back into the sun (promo)
Kjazz – Various (CD – Can’t keep a sista down)
Leela James – Various (CD – In my soul)
Livin Out Loud – Cuz I gotta know (promo)
Max Sedgley – All around me (CD Suddenly Everything)
Mirenda Rosenberg – Puppet (CD Placeholder)
Patrice Campbell – Various (CD Garden Of Love)
Planet Earth – Knock me over (CD 20 Miles From Buffalo)
Richard Earnshaw – In time (CD In Time)
Seliah – No lies (promo)
Sharnette Hyter – Love token (CD Jus Shar)
Soul talk – Loving you (promo)
Third Coast Kings – Give me your love (Record Kicks 7”)
Tim Terry Experience – Ooowee (promo)
Tom Glide & The Luv All Stars – Various (CD In the name of luv)
Velben – Send u (CD Creative Flowz)
Verna Francis – (promo)
Wadz – Various (CD So Smooth – The Funk Album)
Yahzarah – Various (CD The Ballad Of Purple Saint James)

Phil Driver


Please feel free to contact Phil with any unsigned news that you feel would benefit others... Also drop Phil a line if you are a talented and unsigned Thank you.

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