L. Michael Gipson's Cornfed Corner: Lemar, Tim Dillinger and more...

On this week's Cornfed's Corner: we "discover" one of my favorite young artists, UK soul man, Lemar; share a brief, but intimate moment on IM about sexuality and gospel music with blue-eyed soul singer, Tim Dillinger; and offer our usual assortment of notes, gossip, and 12 "new" tunes worth your gas money. So, grab a chip, a chair and get corn-fed.

Cornfed Discoveries: Lemar

On this week's Cornfed's Corner: we "discover" one of my favorite young artists, UK soul man, Lemar; share a brief, but intimate moment on IM about sexuality and gospel music with blue-eyed soul singer, Tim Dillinger; and offer our usual assortment of notes, gossip, and 12 "new" tunes worth your gas money. So, grab a chip, a chair and get corn-fed.

Cornfed Discoveries: Lemar

A most anemic season of American Idol has gratefully come to a close, but surprised me by finding a new and most deserving voice, David Cook. His haunting rock cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" made me a fan, but it was Cook's phenomenally dynamic cover of the Beatle's "Eleanor Rigby" that, for me, sealed the deal (the studio versions for both are available on iTunes). Television talent show winners like David Cook, Fantasia (I'm gonna forgive you that last album, girl) and even Reuben Studdard (when he's not singing hip-hop disguised as soul) may offer proof that good music can be culled from televised talent shows. Still, it's the losers who often end up delivering more timeless music.

The original run of Star Search had a long list of losing competitors that today reads like a combined series of Billboard Charts and Broadway Playbills, including Aaliyah, Rahsaan Patterson, Justin Timberlake, and Christina Aguilera. It is not alone. The short-lived BBC talent show, Fame Academy, also produced a finalist loser that only keeps topping himself in his musical evolution, the UK soul star Lemar Obika. If ever there was an example that losers can be winners too, it's Lemar, one of the most iridescent young male vocalists in soul music today.

Lemar's raspy, cognac voice is one seasoned by a long road of faith and near stardom. A north London born soul child of conservative Nigerian parents, Lemar became exposed to soul late in life after stumbling on to his parent's record collection of classic soul and R&B. It wasn't long before Lemar was hooked on soul and making the fateful decision to turn down his acceptance into pharmacy school to pursue his new found love of soul music. A quick study, the hazel-eyed, honeyed chocolate vocalist soon found himself in demand as a background singer on various major artists' UK club dates, including Usher and Destiny's Child. Outside of grinding at open mikes, talent shows and showcases, Lemar's solo voice as a singer/songwriter had yet to find an audience until BMG signed him in 2001, only to drop him after the release of one single "Got Me Saying Ooh." Dispirited, Lemar took up a regular 9-to-5, before placement on Fame Academy changed his life.

On the thinly veiled copy cat Pop Idol show, Lemar impressed legends like Lionel Richie and UK pop star Beverley Knight with his smooth soul delivery of classic soul material like Richie's "Easy" and Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." Lemar's been impressing fans and critics ever since. Losing the show after making it into the top three, Lemar had the last laugh by signing a £1 million record deal with Sony. Multi-platinum sales, UK chart-toppers, and a slew BRIT and Mojo awards followed the release of his first two soul pop albums, Dedicated (2003) and Time To Grow (2004), making Sony the real winner in this talent show sweepstakes. Initially, fans were rewarded for their loyalty to the loser with highly melodic, sometimes too slick and smooth soul, pop and dance ditties that populated his first two albums. I appreciated both albums for Lemar's liquid soul voice and catchy, entertaining material. Dedicated, particularly has some incredibly fun Chic-influenced dance jams. Still, I knew he could do better, I knew from my first introduction to his artistry that he had more to give.

I stumbled upon the singer on the De-Lovely soundtrack, where his sensitive cover of Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love" moved me to search in vain for two years for more Lemar. Finally, once I realized that one could access the UK sites for Amazon and iTunes (though with iTunes you'll have to use an iTunes gift card to get around their ridiculous jurisdictional restrictions) I was rewarded with a bevy of Lemar material. As much as I enjoyed the first two albums, it wasn't until Lemar's last and highest charting album (UK #3), The Truth About Love (2006) that my faith in Lemar truly paid off.

On The Truth About Love, Lemar's rich voice simultaneously evokes Seal, Martin Luther and Sam Cooke with a timbre whose weight seems to duck and dodge most male whiners singers of this 28 year-old's generation. Produced by Brian Rowling (Mica Paris, Tina Turner) with all-live instrumentation, The Truth About Love finally provides Lemar's instrument a proper setting that moves from African hymns, rock and soul to adult contemporary slow jams with the grace and nimbleness of a featherweight champion. The opening cut "Love Me Or Leave Me" is Stax soul man meets Phil Spector. "It's Not That Easy" could have easily fit into the early Temptations catalog. "Beauty Queen" finds Lemar moving into Prince territory and succeeding, his natural to falsetto transition are sublime. Contemporary cuts, such as the gloriously arranged "Be Faithful," the aching "When A Heart Is Broken" and the must-have Mica Paris duet "Can't You See" featuring Styles P ensures that the project isn't all throwback drenched material. Lemar even makes Joss Stone sound good on their duet, "Anniversary." This album is a necessity for any soul connoisseur.

This year Lemar will drop his yet to be titled fourth studio album. A first song, "All I Wanna Do," has already been leaked on the internet, whetting my appetite for more. We can only hope that Lemar decides to continue on this growth path of better and better music, instead of switching up his unique signature style for more commercial appeal (the platinum spoiled John Legend, anyone?). We can only hope that an artist gifted with the vocal and songwriting talent to craft, The Truth About Love, will continue to prove that losers can make the most satisfying winners of all. -L. Michael "Cornfed" Gipson

Cornfed Notes, Music and Other Good Grub:

  • OkayPlayer, reports that Raphael Saadiq's forthcoming solo project was recently previewed at a live VIP session for industry. Reportedly, the yet-to-be-titled project garnered a favorable reception for a mostly 60s doo-wop throwback sound. We can only hope it's as good as the 70s throwback sounds of Tony Toni Tone's finale, House of Music. Can we get some more of that on the menu, Raphy, hmmm? (OK). http://www.okayplayer.com/content/view/5650/5/
  • The King of Whine and Soul, Keith Sweat, essentially tells Rolling Out that he's a cheap date. After selling 25 million albums and landing at #1 slot on the Billboard R&B chart for his latest monotone project, can't one of the game's few paid vets at least spring for Chick-fil-a? I'm just saying. http://rollingout.com/v2/index.php
  • Noel "The River" Gourdin (pronounced Gor-dean, ya'll stop calling him Gordon!) spills his guts to Honey Soul about the origins of his from-the-underground-to-the-Apollo radio hit. Gourdin also dangles July/August as potential drop date for his anxiously awaited debut album. Can you believe this talented kid's been signed to Sony since 2005? What took so darn long? Quit snoozin', Sony, and give us some soul!http://www.honeysoul.com/wp/?p=928
  • Why does Gnarls Barkley soul man, Cee-lo, completely steal the jam "Pretty Please" from Estelle? Bless her heart, she didn't know any better, chile. http://www.soulbounce.com/soul/2008/03/pretty_please_love_estelle_and_ceelo.php
  • With T-Pain garnering the most BET Awards nominations and Amy scooping up so many 2007 Grammy's in between blow tours, its official; all music awards are the Billboard Awards (itself based on sales, charts, and other popular artifice). Uhm, SoulTracks Awards being an obvious exception, with only artists of the highest, caliber, integrity and artistry being bestowed the honor; ("cough") right, boss? http://www.bet.com/specials/betawards08/betawards-nominees/

Intimate Moments on IM: Tim Dillinger

Tim Dillinger is a Nashville-based, blue-eyed soul singer from St. Petersburg, Fl. A Southern Entertainment Award nominee, Tim's albums include Love Is On My Mind (2006) and The Muse (2007). Fitting for one who collaborated with TaTa Vega and Daryl Coley, his forthcoming project is a gospel project. Come eavesdrop on my intimate moment with Tim Dillinger.

Cornfed: So, why gospel after the success of The Muse on the soul circuit?

Tim DillingerTD: Well, I have been holding the heart of this project for a long time. Gospel is my primal heartbeat and after a project like "The Muse", I really wanted to be able to segue way here. "The Muse" was a heavy project for me lyrically and conceptually, a journey into my influences. I felt that doing a gospel project at this time was a natural progression. I've been sitting on some of these songs for 10 years and when I pulled them out as I contemplated beginning the album, they resonated with me deeper now than they did when I wrote them. So, it truly was, for me, the right time.

Cornfed: Now from what we hear, your gospel will be a lil' different from traditional gospel and the conservative Christian message; is that true? How so?

TD: Well, it's interesting, because my roots are in the Pentecostal Holiness Church, so the spirit of the traditional church is there. I grew up in such a wonderful era of gospel music, one that was truly full of love and acceptance. As things have shifted within the church, the message has become more legalistic and dogmatic. The focus for me at this stage is in concentrating on our commonalities as one in humanity, not our theological differences. There is a place for each of us in the universal community of faith and while this project bounds from the spirit of the Christian church, it is inclusive of everyone from every faith or racial or cultural walk. A friend of mine wrote that there's "a call to us all to love all humanity" and I really want this project to be a response to that call.

Cornfed: Now you recently came out of the closet as a gay man, I believe through your internet radio show Out The Box; through any of the songs on this project will you be explicit about how you reconciled your sexuality with spirituality? Or will you leave that strictly hush-hush and on the Q-T?

TD: None of the songs are explicit about sexuality in specific discussion, however, there is a theme throughout the project of 'being'. We were created in the image of God. I love the Scripture that says God looked at all that He had made and it was very GOOD. And I think that the broader conversation has to be of self-acceptance in every area, not just sexuality. And through taking a more general route on the album, I think that it helps open the door for discussion about a range of topics, even beyond sexuality. There are wonderful ministers like Bishop Carlton Pearson who are provoking important discussions about the thoughts, beliefs and philosophies that have held people captive for thousands of years all in the name of God. So, as more of us of different schools of thought emerge, I think that we encourage more of those kinds of discussion. In the end, I don't expect or want everyone to agree with me, but I do hope that we can again bind together in our commonality and not allow the differences to keep us from moving forward in common goals.

Cornfed: Hmmm, so, is that a "yes" or "no" on that explicit message regarding your sexual reconciliation?

TD: None of the songs are explicit about sexuality in specific discussion.

Cornfed: What is the title of the project and how do you anticipate its reception from your soul fans and the gospel community?

TD: The title is "Dawning of A New Day", and I honestly do not know what the reception will be. I have always made music that I felt like making at particular seasons of my life and there is always the concern of success in terms of product movement and monetary return when you invest money in a project, but I made this album in response to a call. So, I can only trust that "the call" will bring me favor. People that have heard sneak peaks of the project respond with incredible resonance and I hope that that same resonance carries over when it hits the general public. It is authentic and that is what I think people want. My friends in the gospel community have been incredibly supportive and encouraging. Friends in the soul community have said that they think it's my strongest work yet. So, I guess we'll see what happens when it hits.

Cornfed: Economically, have these risks paid off so far?

TD: Economically, there has been a price. But again, I believe in the call. I know that it will reap the harvest in due time, to quote what someone would say in church. I am walking a road that so many of my mentors have walked. So, when times are challenging, I am blessed to have people to call who can offer council, advice and encouragement and there are those who help support the work financially as well; that has been a true gift.

Cornfed: First, you were a white Southerner primarily singing black-oriented soul music and now an openly gay performer in an often homophobic/homo-prejudiced genre of music; audacious agitator or heart-felt maverick, which-if either-best characterizes your boundary-bending efforts? Why press these boundaries?

TD: LOL! I love that question. I think heart-felt maverick probably best describes me. I have honestly experienced the greatest fear of my life preparing for the release of this album. Pressing these boundaries isn't conscious...it comes through a simple "beingness." It hit me mid-way through production what this project really represented and the fright was literally overwhelming. But giving into that fear, robs us of our greatest joy, and I refuse to live my life without my joy because of the fear of someone else's opinion. There's an additional joy in realizing that this isn't about me in the big picture. I've had the most incredible emails from people who have begun their own journey into authenticity through my baby steps and that is the greatest honor that the work can ever bring me. In all of this, I am learning how to maneuver with grace. The Bible talks about being as wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove, and that continues to be my greatest lesson.

Cornfed: What lessons have you learned about Internet Radio after having a show with a listener high of 10,000 downloads to being yanked off the virtual air with the recent demise of the UK's Jazz Syndicate Radio?

TD: Well, internet radio is a costly and high maintenance operation. It is a great threat to the land stations, especially the ones owned by the conglomerates, and things are not easy for those who take the steps to run an internet station. "Out the Box" has been an incredibly successful show. Our most downloaded show is now past 25,000 downloads and was, if I'm not mistaken, the highest rated show on Jazz Syndicate. When it folded, I was really disappointed because Jazz Syndicate was an unconditional home to me. I had no limitations on anything that I wanted to talk about or say. They were so incredibly supportive. They were also gracious even in the closing, to connect me with a larger station for the 3rd season, which will begin in September. We will be joining the Starpoint Radio Family.

Cornfed: Great! We'll do a longer interview with you on both the project and the third season when both launch this fall. Until then, why don't you close us out with some teasers? Name two of the "worth your gas money" cuts from "Dawning of A New Day" and two artists you plan on interviewing on the new Out The Box?

TD: I can't wait for that! Our conversations are always full of thought, and I love that synergy. My two picks from the new album are "We Are His Glory", one of my own compositions about the manifestation of the God rising from our authenticity, and a remake of Dorothy Love Coates' "You Must Be Born Again." On that song, I had a duet with my godmother, Pat Morgan, from St. Petersburg. We had to actually stop the live session for about 45 minutes so people could just have their praise fits...LOL. As for "Out the Box", I'm planning on focusing on singer/songwriters for the entire season. I'm in the midst of confirming guests now, so I can't give names yet, but it will cover every genre: hip-hop, gospel, contemporary Christian, soul, folk, and blues. I think it will be our most diverse season yet, and that's saying a lot.

Cornfed: Thanks, Tim, for sharing an intimate moment on IM with Cornfed's Corner. What's the drop date, so we know when to send you another invite for a cornfed meal?

TD: LOL! It looks like it will be dropping in September, possibly October, but I'm pushing for September...and I can't wait for another meal!

Cornfed: Lata playa!

TD: Thank you, bro...

Track Love: 12 "New" EPs, Singles and Album Cuts Worth Your Gas Money

Track/EP

Artist/Duo/Group

Project

Available To Buy?

Genre(s)

It's Over

Conya Doss

Still...

Yes

Soul

Cherish The Day

Martin Luther

Live...At Arlene's Grocery

Yes

Rock-n-Soul

Mirror Mirror On The Wolf-Tell The Story Right

Alice Russell

My Favourite Letters

Yes

Soul/Jazz

Special Occassion

Ann Nesby

This Is Love

Yes

Soul

Sailing

Trina Broussard

Inside My Love

Yes

Soul

Melt My Heart To Stone

Adele

19

Yes

Soul

The World Keeps Going Around

Brian Culbertson feat. Ledisi

Bringing Back The Funk

Yes

Jazz-Funk

So Sweet

Alison Crockett

Bare

Yes

Acoustic Soul

This Jones

Aimee K. Bryant

Becoming

Yes

R&B

You Think You've Got It Bad

Lyfe Jennings feat. Wyclef Jean

Lyfe Changes

Yes

Soul/Reggae

Never Fall

vice lounge feat joaquin

Recordbreakin' music presents vicelounge (EP)

Yes

Ambient/Soul/

Electronica

All The Things

Ra-Re Valverde

feat. Joe Webb

A Beautiful Mess

Yes

Soul/

Electronica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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L. Michael Gipson is a cultural critic, music journalist and a lover of all underdogs; poverty becomes him.

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See past "Cornfed Corners"

Alice Russell and opening thoughts

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