Aretta Hill

Aretta Hill

    Since its birth by artists like D'Angelo and Tony Toni Tone, the U.S. neo-soul movement has attracted urban music fans worldwide and inspired numerous artists, perhaps none more than in the ranks of independent music. While the major urban charts are currently dominated by hip-hop influenced R&B (i.e., Akon, Keri Hilson), neo-soul artists like Angie Stone and Musiq, artists inspired by seventies soul stars like Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder, on occasion break from the dominant urban contemporary trends. These major label acts are not alone. Established independent recording artists spinning classic sounds with modern overtones are representing in bigger numbers, as demonstrated by the rise of performers like Conya Doss, Sy Smith and Eric Roberson. Still more neo-soul divas and divos are waiting in the wings for their first national close-up through the independent music heaven, CD Baby, and through the music golden mines of MySpace. 

    One vocalist that has recently crossed our radar is singer Aretta Hill. Like many independent artists bucking radio trends, Ms. Hill too cites many old school soul vocalists like Wonder and Hathaway as inspirations, but she also expresses an appreciation for newer soul communicators like Ledisi. In essence, Aretta Hill "loves real music that talks to the soul."

    Growing up, Hill had a double-fold advantage at her disposal with both her musician parents and a cousin who was a well-respected promoter for Luther Vandross, Salt n' Pepa and the late Clarence Jones, among others. In her short professional career, this backup vocalist and multi-instrumentalist gained experience through both the local and national scene by touring with artists in different genres. Her performance resume includes: hip-hop veterans T-Mo Goodie (Goodie Mobb) and Mystikal; the R&B balladeer Eric Benet; and neo-soul favorite, Anthony Hamilton.  

    Hill's hardcore fans are probably still patiently waiting for a full-length disc that showcases her stylistic alto. In the meantime, her self-titled five-song debut released a few months ago is a promising showcase, mixing R&B, smooth jazz and classic soul--all capped off with a chilled-out vibe.Within Hill's fairly mellow vocal ambience is the same vibrant spirit captured by Ledisi, Jill Scott, and other singers whose material sits apart from that of many lifeless R&B vocalists ruling the Billboard charts. 

    Luckily, Ms. Hill's music is starting to find a wider, much deserved audience. The calm, but sassy, "Everything," is catching on at several internet music websites. The cut is a great introduction to new fans, as it defines much of Hill's trademark vocal nuances. Another jam, "Instinct" resurrects some of those seventies smooth soul moments that encouraged Ms. Hill's artistry. "My Life," a mid-tempo radio friendly cut, was once featured on Spain's QFM 94.3, a radio station whose playlist successfully bridges soul, jazz and R&B grooves. On a program called Soul Unsigned, "My Life" was tagged in a set that included "Dance Awhile" by the popular Kloud 9, a duo well-celebrated by Soul Tracks. A growing fan favorite is also the only cut dishing out a rhythmic R&B edge, "Medicine," that the track has more than a few similarities to Ne-Yo's latest hit "Miss Independent may have helped its cause.

    Even with just five tracks serving as an overture to her recording journey, Hill shows plenty of promise with her soulful vocal strut and her overall musicality. She also has in her favor the privilege of working with some top-notch producers, including Kelvin Wooten (Raphael Saadiq, Anthony Hamilton) to guide her long-awaited full-length debut. When that time finally comes, Hill should have a more than decent shot in adding another potent voice to the neo-soul independent movement.

    By Peggy Oliver

    Available Music

    Featured Album - ASCENDANT - Illuminate: Yellow
    Choice Cut - Fred Reed - "Tug Of War"