Amy Winehouse changed the game for contemporary R&B singers, but urban radio is still sticking to the same old glossy formula favoured by everyone from Mary J. Blige to Omarion. Here are some of the soulful flame-keepers you won’t hear burning up urban radio in 2008.
When you hear the trippy sound of Adventures Of Seymour Liberty (Juju Dust), you’d swear this Coultrain hombre was from Detroit and hangs out with the Platinum Pied Pipers crew. This St. Louis singer’s offbeat flow and thrilling, twisted arrangements are too dope to miss.
The sultry-voiced frontwoman of handmade UK hiphop crew Belleruche sounds like she’s listened to a lot more Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday than Foxy Brown or Trina on the group’s stellar Turntable Soul Music debut. www.myspace/belleruche.
Perhaps best known as a jazz singer, Conquest has gigged with Roy Ayers and Mulgrew Miller, but it’s with Chicago bassist Willam Parker’s Raining on the Moon ensemble that she’s done her finest work. Her stellar showing on the recent Corn Meal Dance (Aum Fidelity) disc proves she’s got the pipes to do anything her heart desires. If she somehow hooks up with Pharrell Williams, watch out. www.leenaconquest.com.
The mysterious Munich-based singer/poet, daughter of Embryo’s J. Pluwatsch, is often associated with the electronic/chillout scene due to past work with Beanfield and Bonobo. Bajka’s scorching singles for the UK’s Jazzman label and collaborations with Radio Citizen and recently with Eastenders suggest enormous potential for a deep soul solo album. Let’s hope.
This New York-based crooner schooled on straight-ahead jazz and the sweet side of 70s soul clearly draws inspiration from baritone badasses Andy Bey and the late Jon Lucien. But his boldly brilliant re-invention of John Coltrane’s Equinox is proof enough that he’s got his own thing going on. Wait till you year what he does on his new disc, The Dreamer, for Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label, due January 28. www.josejamesmusic.com.
One of the surprise hits of the holiday season was an unlikely duet on Kenny Loggins’s On Christmas Morning by Clara Hill and sensitive Dutch soul swinger Benny Sings, aka Tim Berkestijn. His latest disc, Benny At Home (Sonar Kollektiv), might lead you to believe he’s been listening to a lot of Donny Hathaway, but he’s probably aiming for Michael Franks and didn’t get it quite right. Sad sack soul lovers, you’ve been warned. www.myspace.com/bennysings.