Film Review: An Inspiring ‘Bastards of Soul’

Paul Levatino’s documentary tells the story of an up-and-coming Dallas-based soul/R&B band that takes an unexpectedly tragic turn.

Paul Levatino’s documentary, Bastards of Soul, tells the story of an up-and-coming Dallas-based soul/R&B band that takes an unexpectedly tragic turn.

As the 2020s began, a group of Dallas-based musicians got together to form a soul/R&B group, Bastards of Soul. It was immediately obvious that their frontman, Chadwick Murray, had the raw talent and charisma to propel the band to the top, and soon they were playing bigger and bigger gigs. They seemed sure to be heading for something bigger. Even COVID-19 couldn’t slow down the momentum.

What they didn’t expect was Murray’s sudden passing.

Levatino, a longtime friend of Murray, had been following the band with the intention of making a promotional video of their latest song. He captured footage of their dynamic performances, as well as one of their final recording sessions in a Dallas studio. Such was the band’s dedication to creating music with the old school Sam Cooke-style sound that they decided to record songs completely analog, with no digital manipulation whatsoever. And it sounds great.

After Murray’ passing, Levatino know that he had to build his footage out to a documentary that would serve both as an examination of the band’s creative process and a memorial to a life that ended too soon.

He received full cooperation from the surviving band members (bassist Danny Balis, keyboardist Chad Stockslager, guitarist Chris Holt, drummer Matt Trimble) as well as Murray’s widow, Hannah. They were all forthcoming In their recollections, even when it summoned the tears.

The interviews with Murray are just as revealing. They show a generous-hearted man who was grateful for the breaks life handed him. And as he and Hannah were expecting their first child, this was a portrait of a man fulfilled.

Working with DP Jeremy Word and DP/editor Zack Tzourtzouklis, Lavatino provides an up-close and searingly personal tribute to a group of committed, talented musicians — and the one that got left behind.

Bastards of Soul is screening on Saturday, April 27, at the Dallas International Film Festival with more dates to come.

Kurt Gardner


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