Son of a preacher man Jon-Rae Fletcher knows there's a fine line between the sacred and the profane, and the most powerful stuff comes from the liminal space between the two. The new album by his River starts slow, but after a relatively tame exorcism, the band finds its mojo. A stellar horn section bolsters gospel-soul songs that are less about the heart than the groin, with Fletcher and co-singer Anne Rust D'Eye's vocals facing off and overlapping between juicy Hammond-style keyboards, fat basslines and a choir that can actually sing. Fletcher's no Sam Cooke, and his soul revue would benefit from vocalists capable of letting forth a richer bellow. But the guy is so passionate about what he sings - whether that's an entire song made up of "Fuck me" or an uneasy reminder of the biblical fire and brimstone of his childhood - that he makes you believe he's both a saint and a sinner. Props to Paul Aucoin for giving the River the studio treatment they deserve.
Jon-Rae & the River get it on at Lee's Palace November 10.