Album: Three Little Words Artist: Dominique Fils-Aime Release Date: February 12, 2021 Label: Ensoul Records Favorite Tracks: Thoughts: Dominique Fils-Aimé, a vocalist from Quebec, explores the sounds of soul music with hints of jazz on her third album. The songs draw on influences from Do-Wop and classic Motown to more recent performers like Amy Winehouse. Lyrically the songs celebrate Black history and music and the ongoing struggle for liberation. Everything seems to be arranged and produced to perfection. Really the only flaw to the album is that it ends with an unnecessary cover of “Stand By Me.” If you like beautiful vocals and souljazz arrangements, this album is for you.
Album: Spilligion Artist: Spillage Village Release Date: September 25, 2020 Label: Dreamville | Interscope | SinceThe80s Favorite Tracks:
End of Daze
Spillage Village is a hip hop musical collective based in Atlanta, Georgia. I am no expert on hip hop, but I find these days that when I really like something it comes from the Atlanta and Southern scene. The album was born of the COVID-19 lockdown with members of Spillage Village living at the studio as a safe place. Naturally, the album reflects the concerns of the time as greater inequality and social justice concerns. But is is also an album that is full of hope and joy. In addition to rap, the album reflects a wide variety of musical styles including soul, funk, and gospel. It serves as a perfect time capsule and a message of hope from this cursed year.
Album: The Cycle Artist: Mourning [A] BLKstar Release Date: May 15, 2020 Label: Don Giovanni Records Favorite Tracks:
If I Can I May
Sense of an Ending
Mist :: Missed
So Young So
The Mourning [A] BLKstar website describes the group thusly:
We are a multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.
Founded in Cleveland, Ohio.
I can’t sum up MAB any better than that. The music has touches of soul, touches of gospel,touches of jazz, and touches of hiphop, all built over electronic music. The music is most reminiscent to me of Algiers, but MAB is mostly unique and original. If you like strong vocals, beautiful harmonies, horns that lift you up, and beats that make you want to move, this album is for you.
I’ve spent the past month “catching up” on album releases from the first six months of 2020, and this is my favorite of the year so far, but also probably the most important release of 2020.
Album: Cuz I Love You Artist: Lizzo Release Date: April 19, 2019 Favorite Tracks:
Cuz I Love You
Like A Girl
Exactly How I Feel
Lizzo is one of those artists that excels in making music that fits into multiple genres – pop, hip hop, soul, funk, & R&B – so much so that her music is kind of it’s own Lizzo genre. I was going to compare the music on Cuz I Love You to the work of Prince, and that was before I learned that Lizzo is from Minneapolis (in fact she appeared on the Prince and 3rdeyegirl album Plectrumelectrum). The other obvious comparison is Janelle Monáe, and again there’s a direct connection as the pair performed together at Coachella last week and Lizzo interviewed Monáe for them.magazine. What sets Lizzo apart is her joyful exuberance. A large, black woman gets discriminated at from every angle, but Lizzo has embraced self-love, and much of the theme of this album is sharing the message of empowerment. And she sounds she’s having so much fun while doing it.
Checking in with a legendary soul & R&B record shop owner and entrepreneur, Skippy White. His shop is located in Boston’s Egleston Square, not far from where I live, but this is the first I’ve heard of him!
A local salesman, a fixture of his Oakland neighborhood, goes missing and is believed dead leading to an outpouring of remembrance in the community. But one journalist digs deeper to find out what actually happened to the mystery man.
Album: Soul of a Woman Artist: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings Release Date: 17 November 2017 Favorite Tracks: “Matter of Time,” “Come and Be a Winner,” “Rumors,” “Searching for a New Day,” and “Call on God” Thoughts: It’s hard to listen to this album without feeling tearful, not just because of the music, but the knowledge that Sharon Jones’ voice was silenced forever with her death last year. The final Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings album seems to recognize her mortality with more down tempo tracks, calls for reconciliation, messages of peace, and finish with the gospel hymn “Call on God.” It’s not intended as a final statement, but it’s what we get and serves as a reminder of the beauty and power that the great Sharon Jones brought to the world. Rating: ***1/2
Album: If All I Was Was Black Artist: Mavis Staples Release Date: 17 November 2017 Favorite Tracks: “Little Bit,” “If All I Was Was Black,” “Ain’t No Doubt About It,” and “Try Harder” Thoughts:
One of my favorite musical trends of 2017 is the appearance of the legendary Mavis Staples as guest artist on various recordings. First, Arcade Fire released “I Give You Power” on the eve of Inauguration Day in January:
Then staples added her gospel chops to Benjamin Booker’s statement on police killings of black people “Witness.”
Next Staples joined Pusha T on the virtual hip-hop/electronic band Gorillaz’ Trump-inspired track “Let Me Out.”
Now, at last, we have a full album of new songs from Mavis Staples herself reflecting on our fraught, divided times and what we need to do to fight against it. Frequent Staples’ collaborator, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, produced the album, appears on one track, and wrote all the songs (quite remarkable when you think that means he wrote the title track). Staples’ versatility that makes her such a strong asset as a guest artist with distinctly different bands is seen here as well as the music mixes gospel, soul, blues, folk, and Americana. Lyrically, the civil rights icon is still fighting the good fight but recognizes that she has limitations and that she’s still called to love her enemy. Mavis Staples’ legacy is already well-established, and this album is probably not going to be what she’s remembered for, but nevertheless it is great to have her voice confront the issues of our times.
On November 18, 2016, Sharon Jones died leaving behind a musical legacy and broken hearts everywhere. A year later, the final Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings album Soul of a Woman will be released on November 17, 2017. The first single, a peace anthem called “Matter of Time” reminds us of what we lost and what we’ll always have from Miss Sharon Jones’ musical gift.