Music Article

State of the Union

Blessid Union of Soul's rise to popularity -- A look at the bands' background and success

The hits just keep on coming for Eliot Sloan and Jeff Pence. Not that anyone knew who these Cincinnati musicians were two years ago. Long before cracking the charts as Blessid Union of Souls (''It's who we are,'' says Sloan. ''We're very lucky''), the duo was cranking out crowd pleasing pop hits as part of an anonymous cover band in bars up and down the East Coast, which, depressing as that sounds, had its advantages. ''In the hotels we really got to know each other musically,'' says singer Sloan, 29. ''That's when we started writing our own songs.''

What Sloan and guitarist Pence created was their own brand of winning pop: a soulful mix of folk rock, gospel, and romantic vibes that recently landed them in the top 10 of the pop singles chart with the ballad ''I Believe.'' The success of that song (the opening track of Blessid Union of Souls' EMI debut, Home) guarantees the band's core duo won't be covering ''Sweet Home Alabama'' for some time. ''When we started doing what we really felt, that's when things started changing for us,'' says Pence, 31.

Blessid Union of Souls, now a quartet, created much of its ''rural soul'' music during regular visits to a 100-acre farm an hour outside Cincinnati. ''It's just so open and beautiful,'' says the dreadlocked Sloan of Pence's boyhood home. ''We can't help but be inspired when we're up there.'' The band hopes to take some of that inspiration along on a national tour this summer. It's still kind of weird, says Sloan. ''We're just four regular guys. It's always amazing to us when people have heard of our songs.''

Originally posted Jun 30, 1995 Published in issue #281-282 Jun 30, 1995 Order article reprints