India.Arie : Acoustic Soul

Organic soul brilliance from the Stevie Wonder-endorsed Arie

It is enough that Stevie Wonder has called her a genius. Hailing from Denver, USA, India.Arie is one of those rare talents who combines a humble humanitarianism with musical magnificence (much like Stevie himself, whom, incidentally, India tributes at the end of the LP).

At a time when R&B seems divided into two large camps - the synthesized, albeit accomplished, commercialism of the likes of Destiny's Child, Sisqo and Craig David et al; and that sprawling mass of experimentation and urban cool known as Nu Classic Soul that, unreasonably, umbrellas everyone from D'Angelo to Jazzyfatnastees - India's organic combo of acoustic symphonics, naked drums, the frankness of hip hop, and a voice borne of soul in its purest, most spiritual sense, stands out as a kind of sweet liberation.

'Acoustic Soul' delivers itself like a prayer. Lyrically, it makes a religion of blackness. A shrine to black femininity. To roundness and loveliness regardless of material worth in the audacious opener, 'Video'; to brilliance and honesty in the guitar-wrapped 'Back to the Middle'; to love and bravery in the elegant 'Ready For Love'.

Many other crusaders come to mind: Tracy Chapman, Meshell Ndegeocello, Roberta Flack - women with the blues tangled up in their hearts, who bind stoicism with sensuality, who create spaces, and will always, always do their own thing - no compromise. 'Acoustic Soul' is a formidable and deeply artistic debut.

Diana Evans
9 / 10

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