Chinua Hawk - A Beautifully Complicated Life

Chinua Hawk
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Chinua Hawk's A Beautifully Complicated Life includes four and a half cover songs. What, you might ask, is half a cover song? I would define it as an original that covers the same thematic ground as an older song, with which it shares a title. Music fans might recall Regina Belle's "If I Could," a musical message in which Belle expresses a mother's desire to shield her child from life's pitfalls while also acknowledging that she won't always be able to do so. Hawk's original "If I Could" comes from the point of view of a soldier who is imagining a child or spouse sleeping and dreaming a half a world away. Hawk wants to protect that person from the horrors that he sees on a daily basis while also wishing to create a world where that loved one would never experience fear, pain or want.

Chinua Hawk's A Beautifully Complicated Life includes four and a half cover songs. What, you might ask, is half a cover song? I would define it as an original that covers the same thematic ground as an older song, with which it shares a title. Music fans might recall Regina Belle's "If I Could," a musical message in which Belle expresses a mother's desire to shield her child from life's pitfalls while also acknowledging that she won't always be able to do so. Hawk's original "If I Could" comes from the point of view of a soldier who is imagining a child or spouse sleeping and dreaming a half a world away. Hawk wants to protect that person from the horrors that he sees on a daily basis while also wishing to create a world where that loved one would never experience fear, pain or want. Hawk's soft tenor gives the track the feel of a lullaby and a prayer, so while the tune shares the same theme of protection as Belle's classic, Hawk's "If I Could" stands on its own. The same can be said of the Hawk’s full remakes. He totally transforms Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U." Hawk's version begins with a Gregorian chant before sliding into an acoustic style bluegrass shuffle. Now that's thinking outside the box.

On first listen, it doesn't appear that Hawk alters Christopher Cross's "Sailing" that much. The song's tempo is the same. There are some subtle differences, and those variations - primarily making the bass and percussion more prominent - move more squarely into R&B territory. Tracks such as "One Man World" show that Hawk's originals are equally creative. On that song, Hawk employs the metaphor of an island slowly being inundated by water to express his isolation. He warns any potential saviors that to attempt a rescue is to risk being "washed away in the storm."

Hawk clearly comes draws inspiration from an era of thoughtful singer/songwriters who were eclipsed by the emergence of the video star. In that regard, it's not at all surprising that Hawk chose to cover Cross - the original radio star slain by video. Hawk's decision to bring the quiet storm back will likely ensure that he is buried on the sea of bombast that is popular music. However, those who dig beneath the surface to find this record will be rewarded.

Notable Tracks: After the Rain, Sunflower, Nickel to Spare, Back 2 Life

Vocals: 3.5
Lyrics: 3.0
Production: 3.0
Instrumentation: 3.5
SoulTracks call: Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 
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