Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Two steps from typical

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Some reviews just have to buck conventional opinion.

The industry hype on new Motown recording artist India.Arie suggested the coming of an urban Tracy Chapman. The leadoff single, “Video,” proved to be a funky declaration of Arie’s regal regularity. All dreads, natural breasts, preferences for Crystal to Cristal, and the folk presence of an acoustic guitar considered, Arie will probably carve a nice niche in an ultra-materialistic music industry. But, at this pace, it’s going to take three albums for her to become a mainstay.

Acoustic Soul is hopeful. Arie’s grooves are easy and smooth, and she sings in a confident croon, taking few chances over the course of the project’s 16 tracks. Two things go far for her. Her subject matter ranges from folktales like “Back to the Middle” and “Promises,” to hidden messages “Always in My Head,” a reference to music, and “Wonderful,” as in Stevie Wonder-ful. And her cultural overtones will resonate with listeners who want to hear music that champions the average Joe and Josephine.

But there are moments when melodrama sneaks into Arie’s picture. Check “Ready for Love” and “Part of My Life.” At these points, an already-mellow disc slows to sleep mode, taking on a drag reminiscent of Des’ree’s debut. The end result is a decent CD that becomes good music to think to while driving on a sunny — or rainy — Saturday. But it’s not the daily must-hear.

Acoustic Soul probably deserves its high debut on the charts. Arie’s values are evident in her dedications to past musical trailblazers, and her musings about nature and divinity. Listeners will feel like their heads are in Arie’s lap as she sings. And that’s nice, but sooner or later, they’ll get cricks in their necks waiting for the change in movement.

E-mail Khary Kimani Turner at letters@metrotimes.com.

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