How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
One of the “Queens of MP3”, the sultry Changamire emerges from the online shadows to titillate us with a wonderful offering. Changamire (the name means “like the sun” in an African language) has gradually built up a strong following on the MP3.com boards over the past few years, making her more than one of Washington, DC’s best-kept secrets. On Only Human she crosses over many lines: jazz, urban, adult contemporary. She’s a versatile vocalist with a distinctively personal sound, recalling Anita Baker, Erykah Badu and even Abbey Lincoln at times but staying true to her own vision in the long run.
The wide stylistic range of these selections keeps Only Human consistently interesting. A fascinating example is the mysterious soft rock of “Days Go By”, which exudes tropical essences beneath thunderclouds. This might fit well in the repertoire of someone like Fiona Apple or Sarah McLachlan. “9 to 5”, the very next track, is a completely different animal with its sparse Latinish beats and bluesy piano accents. “Together” has searing electric blues guitar, while “It’s Over” and the sultry title track float over buoyant string sections. “The Key” is a touching anthem of human understanding and love, meticulously crafted. Rapper Mista Forty sharpens the urban edge on the “Ask Me How I Know” re-mix, radically changing the vibe of the soulful original.
Changamire is most comfortable in a certain vocal range that still permits her the widest scope of expression. It’s difficult to nail down just what makes her voice so darn compelling. Maybe it’s the comfort and familiarity, maybe the confiding honesty. Whatever the case, it works exceptionally well. Changamire is a markedly original vocalist who deserves wider recognition, which hopefully waits just over the horizon. The music could use a lot more of her.
Track Listing: Only Human; The Key; As Me How I Know; Days Go By; 9 to 5; Together; When; It
Personnel: [Collective:] Changamire, vocals; Lincoln Ross, programming, arranger; Hilton Felton, Skip Fennell, piano; Nasar Abadey, Rusty Crowe, drums; Cheney Thomas, bass; Cindy LeBlanc, flute; Arthur Hanton, Jr., Leigh Wollston, Sue Mammarella, Wayne Urffer, Gloria Brown, background vocals; Rob Karsch, keyboard, background vocals; Jack Klotz, Jr., bass and guitar; Stephen Rossmeisl, acoustic guitar, background vocals; James Becker, Lincoln Ross IV, Carl Burnett, Jimmy Stewart, Randy Boland, guitar; Fred Wheeler, keyboards; Don Semco, bass and drum programming; string section contracted by Emma Kummrow; Mista Forty, rap on #10.