Church Is In Session

The Soul Deacons Preach The Word Of Soul

Amy Dalness
3 min read
The Soul Deacons
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Washed in daylight, Evangelos sits quietly amid the trading post-style shops, art galleries and jewelry stores dappled along West San Francisco Street, which leads to Santa Fe’s famous downtown plaza. Tourists and locals alike walk past its large windows, shaded by Evangelos’ American flag-clad sign—some stopping to glance into the lounge’s simple interiors, others passing by without any notice. As the sunlight fades, the glow from Evangelos’ stage starts to draw more attention from pedestrians and the bar begins to fill.

Shortly after the crowd settles, seven men dressed to the nines in black suits take the stage. The Soul Deacons have entered the building—church is now in session.

The Soul Deacons are as important to Santa Fe’s identity as pastel landscapes and concha belts on Texas tourists. The Deacons add some professional flair to Santa Fe’s music scene, which draws the attention of visitors and die-hard devotion of locals. Ask any Santa Fean if he’s heard of them, and his response will be, "Ah yes, The Soul Deacons."

It all started in 1999, shortly after Brother E. Clayton West (known to most simply as Brother E.) moved to Santa Fe from the East Coast. While building his house, Brother E. got the idea to create a gospel-influenced soul group with a revival, church schtick—hence, The Soul Deacons.

"I knew exactly what I wanted. I had to have a definite plan, a definite sound, a definite concept. We’re not gonna play in jeans and T-shirts like every other band," he says.

Brother E. spent nearly a year-and-a-half listening to every band in town, searching for the most-talented, hardest-working musicians the City Different had to offer. "I got the best of the best with my guys," he says. "They’re no slackers."

With the musical core in place, The Soul Deacons began to form. At every show, the Deacons dress in their Sunday best, slap on some sunglasses and Brother E. takes on the role of preacher.

"I wanted to take people to church," he says. "By church, I mean I want ’em to get in touch with the good things, get on the good foot. … I’m not preachy like a religious sort of thing, I use it more in the secular vain."

The Deacons latest release,
Skippin’ Church , is packed with soulful R&B classics, such as "Hold Back the Night" by The Trammps and "Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You" by Wilson Pickett—but these guys aren’t just some kitsch lounge act. Brother E. has powerful, bluesy vocals backed by an orchestra of professional musicians, though the true essence of The Soul Deacons—a dynamic presence, joyful grooves and a captivating front man—can’t be captured on vinyl.

Back at Evangelos, a well-dressed crowd watches the Deacons under the soft glow of the stage lights.

"Can I get an ‘Amen’?" Brother E. wails into his mic.

"Amen!" the crowd replies.

When the Soul Deacons are on stage, they’re preaching the word and the word is good music. Amen, brothers.

The Soul Deacons will be playing The Fireballs at the Cities of Gold Casino (north of Santa Fe, 505-455-0515) on Friday, April 13, at 9 p.m. For more information, visit

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