Friday, July 6, 2012

The Soul of Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka was hand picked by Adele to open shows on her European tour last year, and after listening to his album Home Again (2012), it’s easy to see why. He has an ethereal voice that floats in and out of the beautiful, yet spare arrangements on the record. He’s been compared to artists like Van Morrison, Otis Redding and Bill Withers, and the disc has a wonderfully retro feel to it. His expressive, mature performances belie the fact that he's only 25. He really communicates his feelings in his performances. Kiwanuka is a sincere, talented artist whose music isn't just a "product." He deservedly won the BBC’s “Sound of 2012” music industry poll back in January.

The opening track, “Tell Me a Tale,” is firmly entrenched in Morrison territory, with strings, flute and horns rising behind Kiwanuka’s soulful voice. The sprightly “I’ll Get Along,” also recalls Van The Man. “I’m Getting Ready” features a yearning vocal and Kiwanuka’s gentle acoustic guitar. “Bones” has more of a gospel feel, while several other tunes have touches of country & jazz. Well produced by Paul Butler (a member of the UK rock band The Bees) this is an excellent debut. Every track is imbued with feeling & the songs have insightful lyrics & true depth. One of the most emotional performances on the album is the ballad “Rest” which recalls not only the sound of Redding, but also 70s soul icon Al Green.

If you’re a fan of the performers mentioned above, you should enjoy Home Again. Kiwanuka successfully mixes his style with those of his influences and comes up with a laid back, appealing sound of his own.  You might think you’re listening to a lost classic from the 70s as you move through the disc. This is the kind of album that would sound fantastic on vinyl, spinning around on your vintage turntable. It will be interesting to see where he goes musically on his next project. Home Again is a solid, inspiring journey through the soul & sound of an artist who I'm sure will be thrilling us with more great work in the future.

Here are links to performances of "I'm Getting Ready," and "Tell Me A Tale"

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