India.Arie : Acoustic Soul

Soul-lite from Stevie Wonder-endorsed singer does exactly what it says on the tin

She's a survivor, she's not gonna give up. But Denver's India.Arie states her case with none of the forceful, beat-laden ferocity of Beyoncé. Her idiom is far more restrained, an organic approach that recalls Tracy Chapman. And, of course, she also owes much to the Stevie Wonder of 'Talking Book', a fact which hasn't passed Wonder by - he's been championing her in the States, and the rather sickly final track of 'Acoustic Soul', 'Wonderful', is a suck-up to the great man himself.

Which isn't to say that this album wholly lives up to the expectations catalysed by Wonder's endorsement. Something of an aural equivalent of an Oprah Book Club session, 'Acoustic Soul' couldn't be more earnest if it sat you down over a cup of Celestial Seasonings for a chat about 'issues'. The songs are focused around Arie's acoustic guitar, which lends a beautifully pastoral shine to the soulful bounce of 'Video' and the stand-out 'Nature'. But the lack of any of contemporary R&B's machine-beat production techniques too often sends these songs down a corduroy-trousered Brand New Heavies cul-de-sac.

She'll cleanse your soul then, initially. But like anything that seems too good for you, ultimately India.Arie has you pining for something jumpin jumpin.

Christian Ward
7 / 10

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