It's all well and good to dance to vintage soul records spun by a DJ in a nightclub. But that music's not all just preserved in vinyl -- some of the musicians who made those records are still around and performing, even recording new work. For the past 14 years, McKeesport-based Bonedog Records has specialized in new soul and R&B by the likes of Piney Brown and Billy Price, along the way building a studio, the Mojo Boneyard, an army of session musicians and a signature old-school ethos.
The label's newest release is Soul Social, by powerhouse vocalist Gus Collins. Collins grew up on Pittsburgh's North Side, and sang in a number of touring R&B groups until the late '70s, including The Latiers and JC and the Silver Strings. Catching a second wind in 1995, he joined long-running doo-wop outfit The Marcels, and currently also sings in Elmoz Fire.
For Soul Social, Collins eschews oldie-goldies, instead mostly tackling original songs by Mike Sweeney -- from the uptight funk of "Mama Said Take Your Medicine" to the mournful cheatin' tale "Outside of Ohio." (Sweeney also plays bass on most of the record.) But if the songs are new, the hot, horn-driven sound is natural and timeless -- neither self-consciously old-fashioned nor woefully updated. From Collins' first note -- a scorching wail on the title track -- his performances prove to be powerful, fluid, at times desperate, at times tender.
This week, Bonedog Records celebrates the release of Soul Social with a revue-style show at McKeesport's Palisades Ballroom -- a nine-piece band backing singers Collins, Stevee Wellons and David Avery. Opening are Miss Freddye & Blue Faze.
Bonedog Records Revue. 8 p.m. Sat., June 5. The Palisades Ballroom, 501 Water St., McKeesport. $10. www.bonedogrecords.com