Baseballer Barry Bonds has often mused publicly about the blessing and the curse of coming into a profession with a last name that means so much to fans of that profession. Certain expectations and preconceived ideas await you, and much of the world has judged you prior to your entry, based solely on your name. I tried to avoid these preconceived ideas when I received My Love My Life from Asaph Womack. Bobby Womack is clearly one of the great Soul singers ever, so my obvious question was...who is Asaph Womack? Well, he's Bobby's cousin, the son of a minister, Dr. Donald Womack. Asaph grew up in the New Jersey church of his father on a steady diet of James Cleveland and Andre Crouch, but also of Stevie Wonder, Barry White and, of course, Bobby Womack.
As a teenager, Womack became lead singer for an a cappella group called True Image, which had a minor hit with "It's a Shame" (not the famous Spinners song). He also performed with Kool & the Gang and served as a warm up act for audiences at Bill Cosby's The Cosby Show. In 2002, Womack released a Gospel dance tune called "Shelter Me" that received some airplay, and produced a soundtrack for the independently released movie, Durby Game.
Womack has now released his true debut album with My Love My Life on GA Soul Records. Co-written and produced by Gil Small, My Love is a contemporary R&B album with a Gospel heart beating underneath. The album is dedicated to Asaph's deceased father, and the sound of the church lies underneath all the modern grooves on this disc. This is especially evident on "I Love You," a fine cut that straddles the unusual line between a traditional call-and-response spiritual number and a funky Prince ballad. The rest of the disc is much more contemporary sounding, with the programmed drums and electronic instrumentation we've come to expect from independent releases. However, the album rises above ordinary indie arrangements with nice touches such as a sparse electronic piano opening on "You're the One" and the electric guitar on "Come Back To Me" (reminiscent of Ernie Isley's work on some of the Isley Brothers' mellower 70s tunes). Musically, this album is not full of monster hooks, but instead possesses a number of subtler tunes that become more engaging upon repeated listening. For his part, Womack uses his tenor voice well, generally keeping a cool delivery over nice backing vocal arrangements, such as on the midtempo "Heaven" and the Marvin Gaye-influenced "Feelin You." His pedigree comes through, however, on "The 5Ws," as he growls his way like cousin Bobby through the hot dance number.
My Love My Life is a worthy debut album for Asaph Womack and hopefully will mark the beginning of a solid solo career for this promising young artist. And for a new generation of Soul fans who have never heard of Bobby or Cecil, Asaph provides a fine introduction to the talented Womack family.
by Chris Rizik