Ann Nesby became a star in the music industry at an age when female vocalists often find themselves being ushered out the back door. Nesby was in her early 30s when she emerged as the main vocal force behind gospel and inspirational group The Sounds of Blackness. She continued making her presence felt on the charts, as well as the awards circuit, when the demographics of the industry trended younger – both in terms of target audience and performer.
Nesby proved during her time with The Sounds of Blackness that she could operate with a group that brought contemporary R&B production techniques to the brand of music she performed as a member that ensemble, and as a solo artist. What Nesby never tried to do is cater to the younger demographic by changing her vocal delivery, dumbing down her lyrics or embracing the excessive materialism and explicitness found in much of contemporary music. Nesby remained Nesby, and it worked to the tune of multiple Grammy wins and nominations. That’s what makes the title of her latest album, Living My Life, a description of her life’s philosophy as well.
Living My Life consists of a mix of inspirational tunes, as well of songs that provide a mature and realistic view on love and life. Some of those tunes, such as “Point of View,” give Nesby a chance to be real on the love and life tip while also being inspirational. The inspiration in “Point of View” comes through the song’s plainspoken honesty, as well as the clarity and passion of Nesby’s vocals. “Point of View” finds Nesby telling her lover why she wants to pursue the relationship. The arrangement is soulful and builds from sparse to layered while Nesby’s clear and soulful voice brings the whole thing together.
The title track is an up-tempo funky dance number that will serve as a reminder of why Nesby was able to become a consistent presence on the Dance charts, while the mid-tempo “Look Back and Remember” is one of those inspirational numbers that can work on the spiritual and natural tip. Nesby encourages listeners to remember those times of joy and bliss during difficult days. That can be good advice when the job situation changes or when a romance seems to have lost its spark. The reality is that love and good intentions aren’t always enough.
“Through With You” is a ballad of realization and independence. Nesby takes a tone that is both conversational and simmering as she delivers the coup de gras to a straying lover on this track that is both blue inspired and bombastic. “Many nights I wanted to cry/But then I realized/That you don’t deserve my tears, no/And some days I wondered why/ Why I even try/Cuz see I already knew the deal.”
Nesby’s career is a testament to the rewards that come to those who stick to their vision. She helped The Sounds of Blackness redefine the sound of gospel music in the 1990s. And Ann Nesby maintained a commitment to bringing music that is lyrical and honest to dance floors, and she continues that trend on the excellent Living My Life. Strongly Recommended.
By Howard Dukes
Click Here to listen to Living My Life