Bridgette Bryant - Soulmate Collection

Bridgette Bryant
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During and between the “New Jack Swing” and “Neo-Soul” marketed eras, there was a vein of lushly moving, intimate soul music exquisitely sung by highly stylistic artists that never quite were able to break out of their quiet storm and urban adult contemporary niches. Artists like Milira, Chante Savage, Desiree Coleman, D’Atra Hicks, Tanya Blount, Lisa Fischer, Karen White and the recently departed Vesta Williams adroitly played in this lane, earning devoted followings that swore by their records and swore over the ascension of seemingly less talented voices surpassing their unsung divas. With a debut album reminiscent in feel, sound, and the slightly dated production values of those stylist of lore and their buried treasure projects, long-time background singer Bridgette Bryant steps out front with a lovely release of simple and alluringly rendered soul confections.

During and between the “New Jack Swing” and “Neo-Soul” marketed eras, there was a vein of lushly moving, intimate soul music exquisitely sung by highly stylistic artists that never quite were able to break out of their quiet storm and urban adult contemporary niches. Artists like Milira, Chante Savage, Desiree Coleman, D’Atra Hicks, Tanya Blount, Lisa Fischer, Karen White and the recently departed Vesta Williams adroitly played in this lane, earning devoted followings that swore by their records and swore over the ascension of seemingly less talented voices surpassing their unsung divas. With a debut album reminiscent in feel, sound, and the slightly dated production values of those stylist of lore and their buried treasure projects, long-time background singer Bridgette Bryant steps out front with a lovely release of simple and alluringly rendered soul confections.

The entire album feels bathed in warmth. Bryant has a sweet spot in her voice that is a cross between a coo and an ache, from this pocket she colors the spaces between notes with enough pastels lines and masterful phrasing on songs like “Soft Place” and “Touch Me Again” to draw comparisons to the Jones Girls or a feathery Avery*Sunshine (the two ladies' closely cropped all natural crowns also helps feed these mental associations). Bryant has lots of shades to her instrument, discovering a bell-like clarity and a humming airiness on a lovingly massaged cover of The Emotions rarely remade “Key to My Heart.” That she’s a soloist on a group song is never a thought thanks to Bryant’s own pitch perfect harmonies throughout. Even on a cut where there is nothing but piano and voice, the live “Rolling River God,” Bryant proves she can command attention with nary a riff or run but with stripped down honesty.

In truth, the L.A. singer’s skill as a background vocalist and skilled arranger regularly saves the formulaic soundscapes where her fine songs have sometimes curiously opted to take up residence, particularly on the vaguely low-cal “Under the Moon and Over the Stars” flavored “Callin’ Me” and the nearly forgettable “When You Went Away.” The songs that musically work best are the more acoustic and minimalist quartet cuts (with Dele Black on bass, Ricky Lawson on drums, Jubu Smith on acoustic guitar, and Tracy Carter on keys), productions not reliant on clichéd snares, air effects, bell trees, drum tracks and other late ‘80s, early ‘90s studio techniques that the budget here doesn’t support for optimal fullness (see the underwhelming big ballad “Never Thought I” for a disquieting example).

Conversely, “There Is Love” illustrates the perfect Bridgette Bryant production, musically organic with her signature voice presented vulnerable and soft in a voice suggestive of a lullaby, yet rich with seductive promise. When produced right, you’ll be hard pressed to find another singer who oozes this level of class and rightly delivers with the vocal surety of this stylist. Moreover, the country-fried melody fest, “Earth Keeps Spinnin’,” says she has it in her to be a helluva songwriter too.

Self-penned and released, Bridgette Bryant has taken her years of background and session experience with such giants as Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Dionne Warwick, and Maurice White, among others, and delivered a singer’s album for artists and listeners alike. Making far more than a dollar out of 15 cents, Bryant’s independent release reveals a serious talent that, with better producers and support, could best many of today’s recording artists' recent projects and give a brand to star to intimate soul fans missing an unsung darling to root for. Highly Recommended.

By L. Michael Gipson

 
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