K. Avett - Revelations (2015)

K. Avett
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K. Avett the artist is a bold, beautiful, full-fledged woman with a capital “W,” and every aspect of that womanhood gets explored on her independent soul music debut, K. Avett: Revelations - from her spiritual to her sexual to her romantic. The auspicious indie testimonial also does some minor genre hopping to flesh out the various musical angles of the multi-dimensional K. Avett’s kaleidoscopic prism, jumping from urban adult contemporary to country funk to ragtime jazz with equal technical aplomb. It’s a smoldering yet often dazzling display of a young artist hitting the ground running with a rock solid debut that lends itself to repeat listening for days on end by soul and R&B traditionalists needing something real.

K. Avett the artist is a bold, beautiful, full-fledged woman with a capital “W,” and every aspect of that womanhood gets explored on her independent soul music debut, K. Avett: Revelations - from her spiritual to her sexual to her romantic. The auspicious indie testimonial also does some minor genre hopping to flesh out the various musical angles of the multi-dimensional K. Avett’s kaleidoscopic prism, jumping from urban adult contemporary to country funk to ragtime jazz with equal technical aplomb. It’s a smoldering yet often dazzling display of a young artist hitting the ground running with a rock solid debut that lends itself to repeat listening for days on end by soul and R&B traditionalists needing something real.

With a soulful album this cohesive and filling, one hoped for greater fan fare and response for this Spring 2014 release. However, it was imperative for us that readers get introduced to this skilled alto with the gospel runs, jazz riffs, soulful crooning and emotionally impactful lyricism, regardless of the release date. K. Avett is just worth the second look. It’s not a perfect project, but as debuts go, K. Avett: Revelations credibly vies for a slot among new R&B artist introductions that usually causes critics to pull out such predictive terms as “promising.”    

The singer/songwriter from Texas pens nutritious meals with traditional song structures and occasionally weighty subjects. One of the project’s more spiritual cuts, “Heaven,” proves a subtle song about earning passage to the afterlife, here lyrically delivered in more inspirational than theistic language. An ode to music and what it means to the prodigious Avett, “Music (Never Out of Reach)” is a piano ballad set against sophisticated street sounds, a wash of strings, and smooth supporting vocalists. A pitch perfect interlude, “We Ain’t Talkin,’” is a brief showcase of K. Avett delivering a bit of ragtime and Broadway jazz about the communication challenges in a relationship. “Alone” finds K. Avett taking on the role of observant storyteller about a lost woman who has turned to the arms of multiple strangers to help her deal with her loneliness and the emptiness of her life.

In “Can’t Stand,” the debut single and one of the album’s strongest moments, K. Avett explores the complete journey of a woman who finally comes to grips with the fact that a relationship has turned sour; she no longer buys her callous lover’s excuses, coming into herself in the process. In her emotionally devastating performance on “Can’t Stand,” we feel every bit of the tension, the love, the lust, the desire to go back to that love you know, to believe the foolishness yet understanding that to do so one mo’ ‘gin would be to disrespect and dishonor herself…again. It’s a penetrating moment on a project that glides easily on cruise control. That K. Avett does this work with few big note moments, but rather through her phrasing, technique, and heartfelt sentiments is a testament to her training. 

A singer’s singer, Avett’s jazzy gospel style works on both the leads and background work she does throughout the project, especially on the sleeper ballads. In seductive night sounds and call and response choruses, “In My Dreams” is an introspective observation about meeting that fantasy lover who could be too good to be true (“Do I relax and flow/let it go?”). Sweet romance is the bed of “Luv 4 Life,” a candlelight and you affirmation sung to a soulmate about what her man means to her and their written-in-the-stars future together. An intimacy cut, “Take It Slow” brings nuance and subtlety to the dance of making love without ever getting coarse or profane, but is clear about its subject. The romantic fun of “Fall N2U” taps into her country funk, with its organ thump and harmonica accents, but keeps it chic in its intricate harmonics. In a project of largely consistent feel, a standout moment comes in “Find A Way,” a powerful plea to a lover to meet her halfway and address her relationship needs, as she’s giving him the best that she has, but isn’t getting that back.

Where Avett has growth potential as a writer is perhaps in the need for catchier, more melodic hooks, so that the story arrangements and song memorability match the vocal and lyrical talent. For instance, a simmering slow jam like “Show Me” is well sung, but is almost too derivative of the kind of early ‘90s ballads made signature by artists like Milira, Chante Savage, or Angela Winbush. Even as a nod to tradition, there is little unique that makes the cut stick. Of a different tract, of these otherwise well-considered songs, the aggressive “Too Late” feels an outlier on this sultry album. Unlike the soulful church infused style of all the other mature material, the more mid-tempo cut is sung in a totally different, more hip hop-meets-rock sing-talk vocal, and its tone and approach are more vengeful and biting. “Too Late” is well-produced, but the vocals feel forced and it jars in its bitter tone and aggressiveness in a set whose overall sound is anything but.

As the project’s other prominent swinging, mid-tempo groove, the funky ‘80s era Chaka Khan flavored “U N-Me” works better, with messaging both more generous, complicated, and dimensional regarding the difficulties of maintaining a relationship and its earnest desire to get back to the love. “U N-Me” is representative of K. Avett: Revelations as a whole: layered, grown, dynamically produced, with well-executed vocals that stand-out. I can’t wait to hear it live on the road, and after a listen, neither will you. Won’t you save me a seat? Highly Recommended.

By L. Michael Gipson

 
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