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[whitespace] Soul Slinger

Ledisi delivers silky vocals on solo album

By David Espinoza

IT'S ABOUT TIME this kind of music made a comeback, not that it ever disappeared entirely. Sure, divas like Lauryn Hill, Eryka Badu and Mary J. Blige can still give you a run for your money, but artists of their caliber remain few and far between. To put it bluntly, anyone who sez the last 10 years have been the best times for soul--the kind that Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding were known for back in the '60s-- would be a tad off-key.

What a pleasant surprise then for Bay Area artist Ledisi to live up to the level of her contemporaries with her debut album, Soulsinger. The exceptional tunes aside, the fact that she wrote, sang and produced it practically by herself is enough to earn her much respect. But talent often requires practice, and Ledisi has had a lot of it--working the S.F. club circuit for years, collaborating with folks like Isaac Hayes and opening with her band Anibade for Groove Collective and Incognito among others. Judging by the quality of production she and recording partner Sundra Manning achieved on the album, it has all paid off. But let's not forget about the music.

Touching on various styles, Soulsinger is a fine mix of silky jazz-influenced vocals and smooth riddims with the occasional spoken-word poetry bit thrown in. Despite the rather generic verses of the opening track, "Get Out of Me Kitchen," the rest of the album hits sublime moments through and through. On the title track, for instance, Ledisi's scatting skills are put to the test, nimbly dancing around the funky beats and backup vocals. On the slower tracks like "Groove On," Ledisi proves to be as sexually bold as Marvin Gaye, seductively crooning, "It's not just for you, it's mainly for me. So if you don't like the rules, you'll just have to leave."

Definitely not the kind to shy away from touchy subjects, Ledisi also makes it a point to address domestic violence and child abuse on tracks like "Coffee." Such an intelligent and powerful voice is always welcome in a world full of pop nonentities like Britney Spears. Taken as a whole, Ledisi is an artist deserving of a much wider audience; given how good Soulsinger is, that will probably happen.

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From the December 30, 1999-January 5, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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