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Soul Man 

A white boy from Massachusetts plays gritty R&B.

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Eli “Paperboy” Reed & the True Loves bring their brand of Boston-bred R&B to town tonight. Their new CD, Walkin’ and Talkin’ (for My Baby), pays tribute to the sweet soul music of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke. “Soul music is the best pop music of the 20th century,” says the 23-year-old Reed. “It’s the way the songs are crafted and the heartfelt delivery of the singing. I write songs that are new-sounding, but in the grand tradition of American music.”

The roots of Reed’s songwriting are planted in the Mississippi Delta, where he was hired to spin records at an R&B radio station a few years ago. But before he even got behind the turntables, the station shut down. So Reed picked up his guitar and hit the local juke joints, where middle-aged black people made up his audience. “I fit in pretty well, because I knew a lot of songs they liked,” says Reed, who’s white. “I wasn’t trying to be anything I wasn’t.” After nine months, Reed enrolled at the University of Chicago to study music. On Sundays, he’d play organ at a church founded by soul singer Mitty Collier (who scored a hit with “I Had a Talk With My Man” in 1964). He returned to Boston in 2004 to focus on his own music. “I’m not done pursuing what I came back to pursue,” he says. “I want to go out and make pop music good again.”
Wed., June 20, 9 p.m.

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