Today is the last day of Black Music Month–that nonsensical holiday where the music industry can reminisce about the the legends of yesterday (that they robbed blind or didn’t promote) and the artists of today (that they are robbing blind and don’t get the promotion the deserve.). So here are some new black music discoveries I’ve made in the last month I think are worth getting:
Algebra Blessett, Purpose: This Atlanta-native singer songwriter’s debut album took forever to be released. She’s signed to Neo-soul mogul Kedar Massenburg’s label, and the video for her first single You Do It For Me, was released nearly two years before the CD’s release this past spring. Her sound reminds me of the kind of R&B records that don’t get made anymore–sweet, but not shallow. You will quickly want to place her alognside India.Arie, but she’s much less new-agey–I think she’s more like Zhane. My favorite tracks are You Do it for Me, Halfway, My Pride and Don’t Leave. But there’s really not a bad song on here, and I have seen concert footage of her, and the production here, while good, it’s like most contemporary R&B records, so polished that you lose the sense of who the artist is in the production.
Aloe Blacc, Shine Through: This Los Angeles bred Afro-Panamanian has made one hell of a debut record. It actually came out in 2006, but I slept on it. He’s another one of these new black artists that can sing just as well as they rhyme, but not only that, is comfortable jumping genres, from Soul, Hip-hop, House, and Latin salsa. The label he’s signed to, Stone’s Throw, is producing some of the most innovative Black music–particularly hip-hop–than any other label I know (other acts include Georgia Anne Muldrow, Dudley Perkins, and Madlib). Aloe’s baritone vocals sound particularly raw in a world where most black male artists sound like their vocals have been run under a vocal iron–with little original tone or inflection. Chris Brown, cute as he is, sounds like a robot. Aloe even does some brave covers, “Long Time Comin'” is Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and a Spanish version of John Legened’s signature tune Ordinary People (here called Gente Ordinaria).
Lastly, to visit the myspace page of the legendary Dionne Farris, when I saw she is soon going to release her first recording since her 1993 debut Wild Seed Wild Flower, an offering called Signs of Life. Well, I googled around for it, only to find ANOTHER RECORD she released in Decemeber called For Truth If Not Love–with no promotion or anything. She doesn’t even mention it on her myspace page. But If Truth If Not Love picks up right where Wild Seed left off–a moving blend of soul music. And by soul I mean everything from the country twinged “Stuck In the Middle,” to the deeply passionate R&B/soul track “Remember My Name.” This is really a work of utter brillance by an artist so dogged by an industry that has very little respect for Black women artists as a whole, and if it’s not sex(uality) you’re marketing, you have no place. This is not a record you can listen to and “like” in the first listen. Though not experimental or avant garde, it is music that will challenge the listener. Welcome back, Dionne!
And Happy 91st to Lena Horne!