Reviews from SoulTracks on Sun Music are the highly rated music releases by artists played on the 24/7 and On-Demand streams.
|Lalah Hathaway – Honestly
It is often said of exceptional singers by their fans that they are willing to hear their fave sing the telephone book. This idea is generally fervently believed by its deliverers with an abundance of passion and certainty…that is until an album they don’t like hits their hands. Then, all bets are most ceremoniously off, and off to Instagram and Twitter they go to gripe. For some, Lalah Hathaway’s eighth album release, Honestly, will “honestly” offer such a test of her fans’ devotion and stretch the limits of taste for the most conservative among them. It certainly stretched this long-time fan and reviewer’s limits until the band broke into tatters…honestly. Read more...
|Gregory Porter - Nat King Cole and Me
Like most enduring relationships – musical or otherwise - the one between Nat King Cole and Gregory Porter has an origin story. That story begins in the Bicentennial year of 1976 – five years after Porter’s birth and 11 years after Cole’s death. That year, the Sacramento born and Bakersfield raised Porter let his mother, Ruth, hear a song that he had written that prompted her to tell the boys that he sounded like Nat King Cole. Read more...
|Bootsy Collins - World Wide Funk
World Wide Funk is an appropriate title for William “Bootsy” Collins’ new project – his first album since 2011’s Funk Capital of the World. Bootsy is a legend who attracts collaborators like a porch light draws moths. Bootsy’s collaborators on World Wide Funk include those who can rightfully be called the best in the world, such as fellow bass legends Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten and newcomers Alissa Benveniste and Manou Gallo. While Bootsy is devoted to the bass, he provides ample space to six string practitioners such as Eric Gales and Buckethead. Read more...
|Eric Roberson – Fire
Paying attention to the elements is always a good thing. The late, great Maurice White did it decades ago while reconfiguring his then-struggling soul band, consulting his own astrological chart and renaming Salty Peppers for what showed up the most -- Earth, Wind & Fire. Eric Roberson may or may not have used the Zodiac, but he did create a tantalizing trio of EPs with same properties: Earth was rooted in the power of self, Wind carried the influence of emotions and now he's wrapped it up with Fire, a worthy collection of songs energized, and eloquent about, the political realities of living and loving in a polarized world. Read more...
|Chairmen of the Board (feat. Ken Knox) - Words Left Unsaid
"The Chairmen of the Board" and "The Sound of Philadelphia" are two familiar names from 1970s soul music, but they were not identities that were connected. As Gamble and Huff, Thom Bell and a legion of other musical greats were establishing Philly as the center of the soul music world via a new, orchestral version of R&B music with a four-on-the-floor beat that presaged the disco era, the Chairmen of the Board were still in Detroit, working with legendary Motown writers Holland/Dozier/Holland after their defection from the mothership and subsequent formation of the Invictus label. Read more...
|Will Downing - Soul Survivor
There’s something about being a proven and ‘seasoned’ performer. Just as wine usually gets better with age and folks don’t become old by becoming fools (again, that’s usually), artists don’t remain relevant for decades unless they’re getting the job done. With the only constant being change, the irony performers face over the years is maintaining their uniqueness without becoming stale as their styles evolve. Will Downing, one of the enduring musical talents on both jazz and soul’s ‘short list,’ has been adept at this----for two decades and some change. So Downing’s choice to entitle his latest collection Soul Survivor is a valid one. Read more...
|Calvin Richardson - All or Nothing
The Womack family has been in the news in the past year. Binky, the son of Curtis Womack, released a record after years behind the scenes. His father, Curtis, passed away earlier this year, leaving his eldest uncle Friendly as the last surviving member of the singing siblings that has been making music collectively and individually for more than 60 years.
Though not related by blood, Calvin Richardson has a body of work that makes him this generation’s closet link to the singers from the 60s and 70s such as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and especially Bobby Womack. Richardson released a cover album of Bobby Womack songs 2009, and his gravelly baritone makes him ideally suited to take on “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” and the tunes on that record. Read more...
|Jazzmeia Horn - A Social Call
With an assured maturity and vocal confidence far beyond her years, the young singer Jazzmeia Horn arrives with her debut recording A Social Call, an album that reveals a talent ready to take its place alongside the best headlining vocalists of today. Its ten tracks—performed with an all-star acoustic lineup—bristle with a bracing sense of clarity: clarity in Horn’s voice (itself a strong and remarkably supple instrument); clarity in the heady range of vocal legends who have shaped her (from Sarah Vaughan to Rachelle Ferrell); and clarity in the vital message of social uplift and the glowing optimism she conveys through her music. Read more...
|Maysa - Love Is A Battlefield
Ah, the covers album. A lot of folks’ eyes go into emoji mode at the very mention of the genre. The perception is that artists go there for two reasons – either they fresh out of ideas and they’re trying to create some buzz by consulting the Motown, Stax or (and) the Great American Songbook canon, or an artist might be at the top of his or her game and covering the songs that they grew up loving or perhaps even inspired them to become a singer is a labor of love.
Maysa Leak, based on the quality of her solo work, her status as Incognito’s best known and loved vocalist, and her reputation as a much in demand duet partner, plants her firmly in the latter category. Maysa could probably lend her distinctive dusky alto to melodic renditions of the Yellow Pages and still land a Readers’ Choice Award. Read more...
|The Baylor Project – The Journey
There are many kinds of journeys traveled over the 11 tracks of The Baylors’ The Journey, both explicit and implied. The most obvious is the project’s journey across a range of genres that Nicholas Payton calls Black American Music or BAM, from jazz to gospel and R&B to world, each getting center stage treatment and each expertly handled by musicians without obvious limits. And, while there is a notable absence of funk and hip hop, some of those sensibilities too are still present in the audacity and boldness of drummer Marcus Baylor’s aggressive approach to the drum, a sound in his hands that sometimes teeters on the edge of chaos, but is skillfully kept peering just over the cliff’s edge. For her part, singing in higher registers and exercising a wider palette of timbres and tones than we’ve ever heard from her in recordings, Jean Baylor is utterly unrecognizable as the former half of the ‘90s duo, Zhané, a transformation that takes the vocalist from great to outstanding. This too is part of the journey traversed, as both mature artists explore who they are now while giving a dutiful nod on the title track to whom they’d been and how far they’ve come. The Baylor Project’s The Journey is one you’ll want to pack for and join. Read more...