Soul soil

Aug 22, 2001 at 12:00 am

Looking back on their 10-year-plus existence, the only consistent factor surrounding the music of Warn Defever and the loose collection of musicians called His Name is Alive is that of constant reinvention. The latest evidence of this finds form in Someday My Blues Will Cover The Earth, a 10-song collection that is more rooted in contemporary R&B, bluesy hip hop and the deep-pocket, soft funk grooves of the ’70s than what would ever be expected from Defever’s indie pedigree.

Sung and harmonized entirely in the breathy alto of Lovetta Pippen, and held together by the slick production of His Name Is Alive and Steve King (whose résumé boasts Aretha Franklin and Funkadelic), Someday… almost presents itself as a study of an urban music history. From the band’s scratchy cover of Ellington’s “Solitude,” to the electric blues dirge of “Karins Blues,” to the sultry R&B of “Happy Blues,” the record is a well-crafted representation of that history. At its best, His Name is Alive intuitively incorporates acoustic piano, guitar, upright bass and violin (sometimes played by Ida Pearl of Ida) into these genres with reserved sophistication. The best example of this is in the title track, which combines the warmth of these instruments with dub-influenced bass lines and electronic rhythmic loops to somehow give the timeworn lyrical themes of love and loss a sincere emotional weight that is all too uncommon in contemporary R&B.

By the record’s end, the honesty of these sentimental themes are disarming, and any theoretical suspicions that might initially arise about Livonia indie stars doing an R&B record are crushed by the deep blues in the songs themselves. The only things as broad as the ambition it took to create this record are the earth-covering blues that inspired it.

Nate Cavalieri writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].