FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2012|
Posted by: Jean Lee
Michael Kiwanuka has a very familiar sound. His deep-in-the-ground rootsy style is like a product from the 1970s soul era with a folksy flourish. However, the very familiar sound does not omit his originality. The tonality and overall feel of Kiwanuka's music reflects those who have inspired him -- the legendary likes of Roberta Flack and Van Morrison -- and the resonance is genuine (not a sad interpretation of the retro age). Home Again, Kiwanuka's debut album could be regarded as a perplexing introduction as an up-and-coming artist in 2012...but it works.
Home Again is a sapid soundtrack of self doubt, uncertainty, and longing. The songs are mellow tunes. His voice cries out, in gospel fashion, throughout the compilation. Conveying a journey to a soughtout place (home, perhaps?), the lyrics often reflect a place of deep sadness. "What will it take to believe I can run?/What will it take to be free again" for example, in the song "Worry Walks Beside Me."
Kiwanuka's rich voice is at the forefront of the album. The band provides variation in tonality and color -- the up-tempo flute jam of "Tell Me A Tale" and the lovely, simplistic acoustic sound of "I'm Getting Ready" -- but the songs could be played with a single acoustic guitar (just as they were written). This isn't to say the instrumentals are ineffective. On the contrary, this is to say that the songs could be played either way, with Kiwanuka's voice as the focus.
There are high points on the album. Title track "Home Again" and "I'm Getting Ready" are the epitome of what Kiwanuka can do. Both songs are simple ballads with melodies that push listeners to hit replay. "Home Again" conveys the bluesman sound of a time past and, in contrast, "I'm Getting Ready" is a gospel/folk tune. Simple ballads are where Kiwanuka shows his true strength but there are no obvious low points on the album. Home Again has a consistent tempo and catchy melodic hooks in every track. The UK born musician does not budge from the apparent formula set out but makes it his own with sincere emotion. Regardless of his age (24), Kiwanuka is a child of the 70s and has the soul to prove it.