Singer and entrepreneur Desi Hill has made his mark in the independent Soul Music community over the past decade, initially in the Washington, D.C. area but now increasingly on a national stage. The Wilmington, North Carolina native moved to D.C. and in 1993 formed the Clout Entertainment organization. Over the course of the next several years, he recorded his singing debut album and also signed such artists as LTD, Al Johnson and Krush to record on his Clout Records. In addition, with his band Clientele, he performed around the country and warmed up for artists such as Angela Bofill and Jeffrey Osborne.

    Following the successful release of Krush's debut album early in 2005, Hill has now released his second album, Golden Lady, working with producers Al Johnson and Paul Minor. Hill and company have gathered a solid group of new material for the release (the only two remakes are covers of the Isleys' "That Lady" and the oft-recorded "Never Can Say Goodbye"), mostly written by Johnson, whose penchant for strong melodies and excellent vocal arrangements shows itself all over the disc.

    Desi boasts a big, strong second tenor voice that is reminiscent of Eugene Record's lower range. And he handles the album's varied material well, his occasional lack of nuance being offset by his clear, attractive tone. As with many independent CDs, over-reliance on programmed instruments lessens the impact of some of the songs (especially "Never Can Say Goodbye" and "Take Time Out") and occasionally gives the disc a dated feel. However the addition of Tom Crosson's guitar and Brian Lenair's and Lenny Harris's saxophones on various tunes, as well as the disc's fine vocal arrangements, significantly strengthen the remainder of the disc.

    While the Golden Lady is generally strong throughout, the first half of the disc is particularly notable, with two great ballads (the title cut and "Together Forever") and the solid uptempo cuts "The Body of Life" and "Unless She Comes Back Home."

    Golden Lady should be a good introduction of Desi as a singer (rather than just a record executive) to a national audience, and should also continue to build Clout Records' reputation as a source of high quality independent soul music.

    By Chris Rizik

    Available Music