Pat Colwell and The Soul Sensations from left are Ron Bouffard, Carlos Hayes Jr. Laura Hudson, Colwell, Julie Ouellette, Blake Peachey, Will Martin, Dave Thibodeau and Robin Worthley. Joanne Adams photo

This will be the fifth time I’ve interviewed Mr. Pat Colwell since 2013. He’s a former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and a soulful guitarist/singer/songwriter who currently calls Bath home. I’ve chatted with him more than any other Maine-based musician. Since he got The Soul Sensations band together, he’s been an easy choice to fill a column whether it’s about a gig with his group or a duo show with his talented brother, Bob Colwell, who is a founder of The Boneheads and a producer/keyboardist/singer/songwriter based in Hallowell. On Nov. 4, I gave him a call while he was in West Gardiner visiting family there. I wanted to talk with him about a subject that we had not touched on all these years.

Q: In our past conversations, we’ve talked about a lot of themes for different shows but I don’t think we’ve ever discussed your  Christmas production, can we focus on that today, if that’s alright with you?
Colwell: Oh, good!

Q: To begin with, is this the same band you’ve been using in your shows?
Colwell: Well, I’ve made a few changes in my show. I have an entirely new horn section. I brought a guy up from Memphis, his name is Carlos Hayes Jr., and he worked with The Coasters and The Temptations when he was younger. He’s up here now, and he’s running my whole horn section. I’ve got three horns with Carlos, the lead tenor man, and we brought in some young blood (chuckle). A couple of University of Maine at Orono Music School graduates that are just fabulous, great readers. Will Martin plays baritone and the second tenor, and then a young guy from Augusta, Blake Peachey, is just an amazing trumpet player, that new horn section is just fantastic. I’ve used them on our new record, “Little Bit Of Fun.”

Q: Any other newcomers I should know about?
Colwell: I think (since) the last time we talked — it might have been a few years ago — a keyboard player has changed. The new one is Robin Worthley. He lives up in Strong, Maine, up in the woods, but he’s from the Newport, Rhode Island, and has been on the Newport/New York music scene for years. He’s worked with Bonnie Raitt and with all kinds of A-level rhythm and blues people.

Q: Anything happening on the vocal front, other than your dulcet tones?
Colwell: (Chuckle) Julie Ouellette is one of my great female singers. I have two, and the second one is Laura Hudson; she’s been with me for about a year now and is such a great performer.

Q: How about the rhythm section?
Colwell: I still have my same fabulous drummer, Ronnie Bouffard, who has worked with Devonsquare and Don Campbell, and my bass player, Dave Thibodeau, is the same as well. So that’s the line-up now. Oh, and I do all things guitar.

Advertisement

Q: Now, what’s this Motown Christmas performance up at the Somerset Abbey?
Colwell: Well, the show has about 15 Christmas songs that we have rearranged and have turned them into soul versions of those Christmas songs.

Q: Oh, very cool!
Colwell: Yeah, it’s really fun. You’ve never heard such a sexy version of “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (laughter). That’s the one Julie does. It’s very funky, and then songs like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” we bring a little more rock ‘n’ roll, not quite as rock ‘n’ roll as Springsteen’s, but it’s got some Motown, too. With “Silver Bells,” we do a very Stax-Volt/Memphis version of that classic.

Q: Sounds like you’ve got a real crowd-pleaser going here.
Colwell: People just love it. Of course, they know all the words, so they’re all singing along. BBut, you know, people don’t usually get to dance to Christmas songs (laughter), and they’re moving and grooving to the up-beat arrangements. Yeah, it’s really fun.

Q: A crowd-pleaser, for sure! How long have you been doing it?
Colwell: Well, we’ve been doing it for, well, let’s see (chuckle) since 2017. We missed a few years because of COVID, but we started doing it at the Chocolate Church in Bath as kind of a special show just to kick off their holiday season for them. It’s turned into a tradition, so we always kick it off down in Bath on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, then we go up to the Somerset Abbey — this year we’re there on Dec. 2 up in Madison. We love it up there, and we’ve got a lot of good fans up there. Then we bring it back to Hallowell. We’re doing a matinee on Sunday the 11th at the Hallowell City Hall Auditorium, which is a historical building. Then we go down to southern Maine to a club in Freeport, the only club we really do, called Cadenza, and we’re doing that show on the 17th.

Q: Wow, I didn’t know that the tour was that extensive; I knew about the first two shows at the Chocolate Church and the Somerset Abbey.
Colwell: Yeah, there’s been good audience support. People love the show and have a lot of fun with it.

Q: Well, it sounds like it combines the warmth and the joy of the holiday itself but with a new twist to it, which I think is always cool.
Colwell: Yeah, it’s all soul music. We also, of course, work in a bunch of our own soul songs from our records. We bring in the regular repertoire from the Queen of Soul and the Supremes, but about two-thirds of the show is the Christmas stuff that we focus on. (Laughter) It’s got a limited shelf-life, but we’re able to do at least four or five shows every year with it, and we’re grateful for that.

Q: Just out of curiosity, when did the new album come out?
Colwell: We released the new album back in August of this year. “Little Bit Of Fun” was our COVID project, and it took me two years to record it.

Q: Is there anything, Pat that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article about your Madison gig?
Colwell: Well, we love the Somerset Abbey. It’s so fabulous to have a great venue like that to play in up in the North Country. So all our fans and all our fans-to-be, come on out and join us for Motown Christmas and help us sing these songs, and dance the night away!

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.