British-Nigerian singer/songwriter Ola Onabule has a rich baritone voice and a commanding presence. He's a soul singer above all, but also draws on pop, world music and jazz. Despite its title, opener "Throwaway Notion" is a catchy tune with a Pan-African groove, and very dark lyrics about the current race to the bottom in politics all around the world. Guitarist John Parricelli contributes memorable lead and solo guitar. "The Old Story" has a slinky Latin feel. But "Exit Wound" uses a recurring samba rhythm (voice and instruments) to great effect, producing one of the most memorable tracks. The words challenge "hackneyed 'silver lining' songs," with a chorus that begins "don't send me all your thoughts and prayers."
"What The Heck" goes into soul/funk territory, recalling some of Stevie Wonder's music. "Suru Lere" (named for a place that returnee African-Americans settled in Lagos) is a bossa nova, with fine saxophone obligato and solo from Duncan Eagles. It calls for making a stand where you live, rather than hoping for a return to a mythical place. "So They Say" is marked by an especially soaring vocal melody, as well as guitarist John Parricelli's contribution. Inspired by Rudyard Kipling's poem "We and They," it begins "So they say, is a thing they say, when they say things they should not say." Harmonica player Berthold Matschat makes a great addition to the group sound on the final two tracks. Closer "You Can't Depend On Love" also shows off the singer's scat singing skills.
Onabulé is the whole package: a powerful, expressive singer and a striking songwriter, with incisive things to say about contemporary society. But always in a poetic way: he is no mere polemicist. His stylistic influences are broadAfrican, Latin, jazz, funk, soul and popand they combine in a completely natural fusion. There is considerable rhythmic variety in these tunes, ably handled by the entire cast of supporting musicians.
Throwaway Notion; The Old Story; Point Less; And Yet; Exit Wound; What The Heck; Ballad Of The Star Crossed; I Knew Your Father; Suru Lere; Tender Heart; Conceive It; So They Say; Pas Famille; You Can't Depend On Love.
Ola Onabulé: vocals; John Parricelli: guitar; Guillermo Hill: guitar; Al Cherry: guitar; Femi Temowo: guitar; John Crawford: piano; Ross Stanley: piano; Pete Adams: piano; Jack Pollitt: drums; Chris Nickolls: drums; Phil Mulford: bass; Will Fry: percussion; Duncan Eagles: saxophone; Berthold Matschat: harmonica; George Hazelrigg: Hammond organ.