CD Reviews for 06/28/07 – The Birmingham Sound: The Soul of Neil Hemphill

Compact Capsules for 06/28/07
by Dan Ferguson

Various Artists
The Birmingham Sound: The Soul of Neil Hemphill, Vol. 1
Rabbit Factory Records

A plumber with a passion is one way to describe Neil Hemphill. Hemphill was a white plumber with an insatiable thirst for soul music, not to mention rock & roll and country, residing in arguably the most volatile city of the civil rights era, Birmingham, Alabama. What’s wrong with this picture? In his corner of the world Hemphill was the square peg in the round hole. He quenched his musical thirst by operating a recording studio out of his plumbing offices to release records by local talents. Contrary to the climate in Birmingham, there was no color barrier when it came to the music laid down at Hemphill’s studio. The compilation The Birmingham Sound gathers 23 tracks of resplendent Southern soul purity from the mid-’60s into the mid-’70s, recording warts and all with whites and blacks collaborating, all recorded at Hemphill’s Sound of Birmingham studio. While there’s a miss or two in the mix, The Birmingham Sound is all about discovery be it the two invigorating tracks of sanctified soul singing from the never to be heard from again Little Lois Barber or the far out funk of the band Broadneck. The debut release for the newly launched Rabbit Factory reissue label which declares it is dedicated to the preservation of sounds just like this, here’s hoping there’s plenty more where this came from. (Visit

(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected].)<...