Best Soul Historian

Kevin Coombe
If Washington’s history of soul music bubbles higher in the record-nerd consciousness in coming years, thank Kevin Coombe. A business analyst by day and DJ at night, Coome also maintains the website DC Soul Recordings, an invaluable compendium of data on D.C.’s soul, funk, and R&B of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Beginning about 10 years ago, Coombe let his crate-digging evolve into serious academic research, and his efforts to track D.C.’s legions of obscure soul men have resulted in much lost music seeing the light of day. Coombe found engineer and producer Robert Hosea Williams about seven years ago, and some of the unreleased recordings in Williams’ garage eventually made it onto compilations from the Chicago-based archival label Numero—including an indispensable, previously unreleased album from the Islamic soul outfit Father’s Children. And this spring will see the release of a compilation of songs by Hilton Felton, who owned a “private Jazz-Gospel-Soul-Comedy-Rock label” in the 1970s; Coombe compiled the songs and wrote the liner notes for Jazzman Records. Not shockingly, Coombe is hoping all his research will yield a book on the D.C. soul sounds that prefigured go-go and disco—the only thing delaying it is Coombe’s frequent discovery of more pocket soul scenes. “At some point I have to stop,” he says, “and just write the book.“