Madison musician Nate Palan is adept in many styles. He performs, among other things, jubilant '80s covers with the Hometown Sweethearts, sneering Irish rock with the Kissers and several sets' worth of Christmas tunes with Waylan St. Palan and the Magic Elves.
With his latest act, the soul band Marcus King and Thee Royalty, Palan added a genre to his repertoire. "I'm making soul my new favorite music," he says.
Marcus King and Thee Royalty is Palan's most ambitious project yet, a 12-member group that features three singers, three horn players, an organist on Hammond B3 and -- in Palan's expert hand -- a tambourine. The group's debut performance is Wednesday night at Cafe Montmartre, 127 E. Mifflin St., the first gig in a twice-monthly booking there. "I imagine that first show is going to be pretty shaky," he warns.
He likely is being modest, since he has enlisted some of the city's top musicians. They include Joe Goltz of Mama Digdown's Brass Band on trombone, Brett Farrey of Smokin' With Superman on bass and the Kissers' Mike Cammilleri on organ. And two of the singers, Jessica Lee and Mark Gladue, also star in the raucous MadCabaret. (With the new act, Gladue performs as the titular Marcus King.)
"It's a pretty good lineup," says Palan.
Original music is probably soon to come, but for starters the group will perform songs by the likes of Wilson Pickett, Curtis Mayfield and Sly and the Family Stone. By design, notes Palan, Thee Royalty will strive to play those famous artists' more obscure tracks. "We didn't want to be another cover band," he says.
Palan's newfound interest in soul came in the wake of a performance he saw by the Dap-Kings, a Brooklyn-based, eight-piece soul band that accompanies the dynamic singer Sharon Jones. "They blew me away," says Palan of the youthful Brooklynites. "They have what I like about that style: a tight groove, really funky, but not so tight as to lose the feel."
Palan hopes his new group's regular Cafe Montmartre shows will develop a boisterous following, as happened with the Hometown Sweethearts' weekly appearances at the Crystal Corner. In successful stints like that, he says, "There is the satisfaction of throwing a really good party."
Meanwhile, Marcus King and Thee Royalty are busily preparing for Wednesday night's show, and for a Nov. 21 slot at the High Noon Saloon. "It's been a matter of how fast can a soul band learn 30 songs for a gig," he says of the rehearsals.
"By the way," he adds, "it takes two and a half months."