Ural Thomas & The Pain Share “Do You Remember The Times We Had”

Following their barnstorming performances at this year’s SXSW festival, Ural Thomas And The Pain today share new single “Do You Remember The Times We Had?” from their upcoming album Dancing Dimensions out 3rd June via Bella Union. Of the track Ural says: “To me this song is about that feeling everyone has sometimes, wishing we were kids again. As we go through life, childhood memories can start to fade away, Do You Remember The Times We Had? reminds us to never ‘grow old’ but also to live with joy in the moment.”

Walking through the residential heart of Portland’s Mississippi district you’ll find a charming wooden house under the overcast Oregon sky. This local landmark is the home of soul legend Ural Thomas, built by hand with found materials decades ago. The basement is overflowing with musical equipment. When you walk down into the room you may see Portland’s Soul Brother Number One at the table chuckling, telling stories and jokes, and espousing his personal humanist philosophy obtained from 83years of unfathomable experiences. He’s often joined by either his generations of biological posterity or the adopted family that is his band, The Pain. You may also find this infinitely magnetic personality ripping through a cover song at full volume or working out a new original with his loved ones.

Though Ural Thomas is widely recognized as one of the most exciting singers remaining from the original soul era, and an active musical institution for over 60years, his band, all decades younger, are treated as equals. The Pain are no backing band, but rather a well-oiled tightly-knit musical aggregation that’s spent the last eight years with Thomas developing a unique sound of its own.

Born in Meraux, Louisiana, in 1939, and moving with his family to Portland, Oregon during World War II, Ural Thomas grew up to become Rose City’s Soul Brother Number One. Already an established singer in his teens, he became the leader of the wild twistin’ rhythm and blues vocal group The Monterays – who achieved regional fame and recorded the canonical single “Push-Em Up” for the local Sure Star Records. His success brought him to Los Angeles where he caught the ear of industry bigwig Jerry Goldstein of The Strangeloves, best remembered for managing Sly and The Family Stone and producing dozens of iconic records by the likes of War, The McCoys, and The Angels. Goldstein saw star quality in the young singer and brought him into the studio with arranger Gene Page (known for thousands of recordings with everyone from Aretha Franklin to Elton John to a veritable who’s who of Motown stars) to record two landmark 1967 singles “Pain Is The Name of Your Game” and “Can You Dig It” for the MCA pop subsidiary UNI. Around this point Ural also recorded a 1968 live LP for MCA’s soul imprint Revue and the 1967 James Brown-informed proto-funk dancefloor dynamite that is “Deep Soul” for Seattle’s Camelot label. All are widely admired and continue to be heard at DJ sets and dance parties worldwide.

Ural Thomas next left Los Angeles to record in Cincinnati at King Records with James Brown’s production manager Bud Hobgood. After the two had a falling out, Portland’s soul man took a bus to New York City where he was featured more than forty nights at the Apollo. Eventually disillusioned with the industry and missing the communal aspect of making music, by the end of the 1960s he returned to Portland where he established a Sunday night jam session that continued for decades. In 2014 Portland DJ and drummer Scott McGee sat in. They became friends and within months Magee had assembled a full show band that they christened Ural Thomas and The Pain. The new group wasted no time performing and recording, touring the world and releasing two LPs between 2015 and 2018.

So few of soul music’s original practitioners of are still among us. Even fewer are still active. And of those, even fewer can still deliver the goods on the same level that made your hair stand on end the first time you dropped the needle on their record. Rumor had it that the complete package of undiminished passion, sweat, wailing, dancing, and banter, the elusive soul man we always seek out, could be found tearing it up in the Pacific Northwest. When Ural Thomas finally made it out east to play at Jonathan Toubin’s soul revue billed alongside Irma Thomas, Archie Bell, Joe Bataan, and other legends, it was his first New York City gig since his Apollo reign four decades prior. Having previously shared the stage with James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Etta James, and nearly any star from the hyper-competitive world of classic soul performance, Ural Thomas was not intimidated. He rose to the occasion, bringing down the house both nights and drenching an entire new generation of New Yorkers in his soul sweat!

And the band played on… Despite the usual COVID-19 obstacles, Ural Thomas and The Pain finally completed their much-anticipated third album, Dancing Dimensions.  While exploring everything from sweet Chicago soul to airy West Coast psychedelia to Sly funk, their latest collection retains the distinctive sound the band organically developed organically over years of relentless work. Classic yet unmistakably contemporary at the same time, “Dancing Dimensions” is the most accurate representation of The Pain’s unique flavor, power, and musical breadth committed to vinyl thus far.

Bella Union announce 2022 SXSW Showcase

Bella Union announce SXSW showcase to kick off its 25th Anniversary celebrations!

2022 is a big year for Bella Union records as the label celebrates its 25th Anniversary. We have a number of special events being lined up taking place throughout the year, more news of which will be announced soon, but to kick off the celebrations the label is heading to Austin, Texas for a showcase at this year’s SXSW festival. Thursday 17th March will see Bella Union play host to a superb line-up of acts at Mohawk on Red River Street, with performances both inside and outside the venue. Acts performing include the likes of Midlake, Ezra Furman, White Denim, Penelope Isles, Pom Poko, Ural Thomas & The Pain, Tallies and many more. The flyer below has the full info and stage times…

Commenting on Bella Union’s 25th anniversary label founder Simon Raymonde says: “I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined that we would be working with artists like John Grant and Dirty Three for over 22 years, with Midlake since 2004, Beach House and Father John Misty for all of their albums, The Flaming Lips for 10 years, Fleet Foxes for their globally acclaimed and double-platinum selling debut and the follow up Helplessness Blues, watching Ezra Furman become one of the most important writers of her generation, and having a perfect gender split of 50-50 across the roster. This just happened, without a plan, or strategy. It is a miracle we made it, but gives us such strength to keep pushing the boundaries and the envelope and to show bravery and never be afraid to take a risk. Our pride is also in continuing to develop the new bands we discover before their debuts, for them to develop into the household names of the future. They are too numerous to mention but they know how much we value them.”

“Having been going to Austin for SXSW pretty much every year since we started back in 1997 it feels appropriate to be hosting our biggest and most significant label showcase in this our 25th year. With 83 year old Ural Thomas kicking off the celebrations with his incredible live band The Pain in tow, we have Brighton-based Penelope Isles playing their first USA show in support of their new LP since just before the pandemic hit, Pom Poko playing their first-EVER show in the USA, Midlake returning on the eve of the release of their new album, Austin-legends White Denim bringing the evening close to a crescendo before our headliner Ezra Furman will close out this special night with a set that will have you walking home to bed at 2am with your senses fully activated! She is a star and by the end of the night you will know it.”