Cornfed’s Corner: Heston Chops It Up, Chester Gregory Get Us High

mike picWelcome to the ear of the people, the ear of soul, the Cornfed's Corner. Ya'll, I can barely lift this 20 lb noggin' of mine up from my desk (however did you pass it through, Mommy? Morphine?). After spending several hours too many on iTunes and CD Baby listening for that soul fiyah I gotta bring your way on Track Love and for our new weekly gig on The Dave Brown Show every Monday on Solar Radio (10am EST), it's been one loooong week. Did I mention how much this week has been about hanging with the "It" indie stars and players of the moment? You know I held it down for my Cornfed Campers, making you proud. We chopped it up with Heston on IM, head-bopped in concert to those incredible new wave talents, J*Davey (thanks, Michelle McDevitt, for the luv!), and sat in on a press meeting with the creators of Can A Sista Rock A Mic?, the national indie soul music fest of the fall (following the SoulTracks Awards, but-of-course!). With the DC-based Can A Sista Rock A Mic? starring such major talent as Jazmine Sullivan, and with so much blazing indie talent crossing the Potomac every week to perform throughout the city, Washington, DC is really becoming a major player in this here game. Go head, DC! Ya'll just keep making the Cornfed proud to call this place home.

Aiight, enough of all that sentimentality! On this week's Track Love we got kats and divas from chester gregory picFinland to the Philippines who are just out here doing the damn thing. Get to checking for the much hyped electro-soul artist Erik Rico whose funky debut Journey Back To Me is the business. In coming weeks, we'll also spotlight the vine swingin' star of the Broadway show Tarzan, Chester Gregory, whose project In Search of High Love will definitely get you swinging for the clouds. In Cornfed Notes we got some other names and projects that slipped through the cracks for you to check out. Some are a few years old but are still worthy of your ear (because Good Music is always in style!). So, grab that credit card (not the one that's not maxed out!), click on a link or two and get yo' self corn-fed.

Intimate Moment on IM: Heston

We've been hyping the Dominican lover man, Heston, for a few weeks now. Well, ya'll, we finally nabbed him. Mr. Francis, getting a breather from his busy promotional schedule to promote his much anticipated album, Storyteller, sat down and chewed the fat with us on the Corner. Our friend Tom Paul covered the basics so we decided to go in a different direction with Brother Heston and let me tell you, baby, he had a lot to say!

hestonCC: Let's get it poppin.' Why is the Caribbean man singing soul? Why not reggae or calypso?

Heston: That is a good question. I grew up in the US, so the music that I gravitated to growing up was soul. I guess the thing I cannot avoid is the West Indian influence in the music, but I was always partial to Al Green's voice, Michael Jackson, influenced by Marley and Beres Hammond but never thought to do a reggae album, although I may one day.

CC: You've mentioned Beres Hammond in a few interviews now, what is it about Beres' voice or style that moves you?

Heston: The guy is awesome; his song writing and singing is beyond words. Beres is the Luther of Jamaica. If you have never caught him in concert, you are missing out. He takes such a different approach; it is like conversation put to music.

CC: I've got a few of his albums including the Lost Sessions, but I've never had the privilege of seeing him in concert.

Heston: Please do, he is a true deliverer. You feel him, his voice, magic...

CC: Do West Indians ever make you feel like you've gotta represent for them in your actions and music, particularly now that the Francis star is on the rise? Or is there ever any internal pressure to represent?

Heston: Interesting question. A sister that I am not as close to was a little angry with me because I only used my first name instead of Heston Francis. There is no reason behind the decision. For other West Indians? Maybe not now. I actually would like to get deeper into those roots, but have not as of yet. There is, however, no pressure when it comes to the music. What ever comes out is what I give. If the next album has no reggae or island influence-or is all of the above-it was not by design, but because it is what it was suppose to be.

CC: With them size 12s (or is it 13?) in both the West Indian and the Black American worlds, how do you experience the divisions between African Americans and West Indians? Has the divide shrunk or widened?

Heston: I have a few West Indian friends here in Atlanta from when I was a child just a few, most of my friends here and now are American, so there is not much interaction. I wish there was more but my circle is small and few West Indians are in it.

CC: You have an opinion about why there is a divide at all, since e'rybody's peeps was in shackles be it in the Dirty South or on a Caribbean plantation paradise?

Heston: I see no reason why there should be, from Africans having a divide with African Americans or for American Blacks and West Indians to have a divide, we all come from the same place, lots of work still to be done.

CC: Switchin' gears a bit, your album has been in the hands of the people for a couple of months now. What's been your favorite and least favorite response from "the peoples" to Storyteller and do you take anything from either?

Heston: Your write-up-not because we are here and now-was one of my favorites. I have a lot of respect for SoulTracks, and the writers. The response to the album over all has been very positive. I said to a friend a few weeks ago, if I got a bad or mediocre review, I could not be mad. You will not be able to please everyone. I can comfortably say that I have given this album 100% of what I was capable of as a writer, singer and a producer at that time. I will be sure to grow.

CC: Awww, you brought a tear to Cornfed's eye! LOL Well, the album was love, so we just gave it what it deserved.

Heston: Thank you much for that...but you have to know that I was quite nervous about the review!

CC: LOL. If a kat was givin' you just one shot-a 99 cents iTunes single-to impress them enough to buy the whole album, which track would you tell them to go for?

Heston: The response has been equal from both male and female but for a guy, one song, "Your Perfume." For females, I have only one, "Easy On The Eyes."

CC: Why? What is it about "Easy On The Eyes" that gets you hyped?

Heston: The production of the song. The way it graduates and ends. That is a hard question because these songs are so close to me.

CC: Much understood. Alright, you know we gotta stir it up a lil bit. Who was your favorite to work with, yo' hometown diva, Yazarah aka Purple St. James, or indie superstar, Angela Johnson (think very carefully now, I hear both them ladies will cut ya!)?

Heston: Not cool!!!!!! LOL. Until both Angela and Yazarah recorded their songs, I held my breath because it was not real [for me] until then. They were both wonderful to work with. Angela Johnson is by far the warmest artist that I know. She is so humble, so grounded and is as easy as Sunday morning. I have lots of respect for her. Yazarah, on the other hand, is a fire ball. She is dope. I do not know her as well. She was introduced to my music through a mutual friend and we have respect for each other. I was done with the album. That song was written and [intended] for the next album. I saw Yazarah on MySpace one day after a friend convinced me to put the song on this album. I changed one line from "it's such a shame" to "I feel the same," made the song a duet and asked her to do it with me. The rest, as they say, is history.

CC: Lol, you know we was just havin' a lil fun, don't be gettin' sensitive, nah! Okay, you've got all live instrumentation on this project. You ain't worried about the costs associated with touring with a live band (you got a band ovah there yet?)? ‘cause we know you ain't doing this genius live with no DAT, right? Right?!

Heston: LOL. I am not. Well, touring, I do have a band here in Atlanta. I will, however, take a page out of the genius that is Erro and use "pick-up bands" as much as possible to get the point across, until the budget allows me to travel with my band. The good thing is that I am able to do an acoustic show or a full band concert and deliver equally, but differently. So, depending on budget, I am flexible.

CC: Well, thanks for joining us over here for some black-eyed peas and cornbread. Ooooh, boy, you sholl can chew! Nah, tell the Cornfed Campers were they can cop Storyteller and where they can get into that tour schedule to make sure yo ain't sangin' to no DATs!

Heston: LOL, Cornfed Campers, I hope you enjoyed the fun that Michael and I were having, please log on to SoulTracks.com to get the album, it was the album of the month for July. You can also check the myspace.com/hestonmusic for concert updates and info. Mr. Gipson, thank you so much.

CC: Fa sho. And don't think we ain't notice you ain't give up that shoe size neither. We spyin' it and we say them boats is about an 18, like Shaquille. It's okay, pa, don't be shamed! Embrace the feets, ‘brace dem dawgs! Lol, Thanks for comin' through and watch my azaleas on yo' way out!

Heston: LOL! Peace!

Cornfed Notes

  • I gotta thank the international posters on our new Soul Track Forums for hippin' me to an tuomo picincredible blue-eyed soul talent out of Finland named Tuomo. While the voice is just cool, the lyrics and music is borderline genius. I hadn't had composition and instrumentation on a project make me jump up and smack my mama in quite sometime (uh, Ma, could you please drop the assault charges, I'm sorry, I swear!). Apparently, I'm not alone as Tuomo has already won several prestigious awards overseas for his astonishing debut, My Thing.
  • With so much music floating out there in this soul universe, we feel like every indie album and project doesn't get its due. Here are some we think fell through the proverbial cracks in recent years: Comedian Dick Gregory's daughter, Ayanna Gregory, a righteous soul sister, pollinated her debut Beautiful Flower with a melisma rich alto from the heavens and inspiration to spare; self-proclaimed street soul singer, Randevyn with a voice and production reminiscent of Tonex, totally kills on his disturbingly good, and at times humorous, debut, SolTrain, a must-have (his latest The Randevyn Project: This Is Me debuts in September); say VA artist Jon Bibbs within indie circles and everybody knows who you're talking about, but out in the world you get the ol' "blink blink," which is a shame cause his occasionally experimental debut, Unbreakable, is a soul classic; Ronee Martin on Come Through My Door consistently sells (that unfortunate cover of "My Guy" aside) the kind of mature vocals and heartfelt tunes that we expect from Randy Crawford and Gladys Knight; last, but certainly not least, is a treat for those missing church-drenched quartet harmonies rendering quizzically urban lyrics but head-bopping production, the exceptionally talented Ahmir delivers you The Gift. We'll share more as we find ‘em, gotta go dig, ya'll.
  • Been missing the groups and voices that made the 90s a smooth R&B dream? Never fear almost all of them have third Act projects out on CD Baby. Digital Black from those one album celebrities, Playa, has two projects out. DC boy group Shai has released two albums since their Top Ten major label prime. Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men has a solo mixtape for those who wanted their favorite big boi closer to go solo. Scola, the late addition to Dru Hill, also has a very sexual traditional R&B loverman project out for those clamoring for more bedroom cuts. There is a rather disappointing project by Hi-Five featuring the recently deceased Tony Thompson that is available as well, ironically entitled The Return. Be on the lookout for solo albums by Slim, Quinnes "Q" Parker and Daron Jones, all of 112 fame. Speaking of Dru Hill, the hit making quartet has a comeback in the works but if the leaked single is any indication of what's to come expect this to be one pebble that deserves to fall through the cracks.

 

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

Track/EP

Artist/Duo/Group

Project

Available To Buy?

Genre(s)

Always and Forever

Jay-R

Soul In Love

Yes

Soul

On A Cloud

Platinum Pied Pipers aka PPP

(featuring Karma)

On A Cloud EP

Yes

Hip-Hop/Soul

Emerald In The Sky (Freedom)

Mo'J

Beyond Category

Yes

Soul/

Nu Jazz

Laughing and Crying

Dionne Farris

For Truth If Not Love

Yes

Progressive Soul

Forever

Erik Rico

Journey Back To Me

Yes

Electro-Soul

Changes

Ayanna Gregory

Beautiful Flower

Yes

Soul

Come On Through My Door

Ronee Martin

Come On Through My Door

Yes

Soul

My Thing

Tuomo

My Thing

Yes

Soul/Jazz-Funk

Say It's Over

Chester Gregory

In Search of High Love

Yes

Soul

True Love

Ahmir

The Gift

Yes

R&B/Soul

High Yella

Shayna Steele

Shayna Steele

Yes

Soul

Black Barbie

Little Jackie

The Stoop

Yes

Hip Hop/Retro-Soul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

See past "Cornfed Corners"

Trina Broussard on Surviving So So Def (Pt. 1) and Motown (Pt.2)

Marko Nobles' Talks Indie Dayz for Indie Music

Dain Harris Is All Grown Up & Ready To Sang

Kev.O Talks Sun, Runs and H.U. Fun

Mo' Jazz and Rogiérs' Talks Sexual Eruptions

Jazmine's New Single, Marcell Russell on Spittin' Truth in Soul

Lemar, Tim Dillinger and more

Alice Russell and opening thoughts

 
Album of the Month - Wade C. Long - "Nostalgia"
Featured Album - Chris Jasper - For The Love of You

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