First Listen: Legendary soul man D-Train is back "Today"

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    With four decades in the music industry under his belt, James “D-Train” Williams is showing no signs of slowing down his journey as a singer and songwriter. His new single, “Time Has Come Today,” is a meaningful selection in keeping with his signature delivery of positive lyrics and wide-ranging vocal finesse.

    With four decades in the music industry under his belt, James “D-Train” Williams is showing no signs of slowing down his journey as a singer and songwriter. His new single, “Time Has Come Today,” is a meaningful selection in keeping with his signature delivery of positive lyrics and wide-ranging vocal finesse.

    Throughout the 1980s, D-Train established himself as a gifted artist with a distinct ability to inject the utmost soul into any song he touched, ranging from early hits with partner Hubert Eaves, III, such as “Music,” “Keep On,” and a stirringly funky cover of Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on By” to solo endeavors like “Misunderstanding” and “In Your Eyes.” Such hits were not only mainstays of R&B radio and dance floors stateside, but also became beloved throughout Europe and widely sampled. Nowadays, they’re regarded as highly influential in the post-disco wave of soul that kept nightclubs in New York thriving and permeated airwaves in a multitude of regions in the U.S.

    It wasn’t until the turn of the millennium, however, that a broader range of listeners became acquainted with—and quickly latched onto—the D-Train sound. During the ‘80s, now-classics such as “You’re the One for Me” made impressive traction considering they were released on an independent label (Prelude) without major-label distribution. Quite disappointingly, however, once Williams was signed to a major, some of this highest-charting singles quickly faded into obscurity when Columbia Records failed to finance music videos (and, in general, provided minimal exposure for his albums) at a time when video and television exposure were essential. In the early 2000s, though, his presence as a Sirius XM host and regular performances at funk revivals abroad solidified his status as a singular force of soulful dance music.

    “Time Has Come Today,” the first track lifted from D-Train’s upcoming fourth solo album, The Other Side of The Tracks, is a beat slower than the aforementioned tracks—closer in feel to his 1983 top-five gem, “Something’s on Your Mind.” The tune’s message, which speaks to the full-circle path of his life and career, resonates broadly. Conveying power without flying over the top has always been a strength of Williams’, and it works ideally in this context: “In a world of war, will you make it?/In a time of peace, would you embrace it?…Marvin used to say, ‘What’s going on?’…I still hear his words with certainty/I can make that change.”

    D-Train’s credits as a backing vocalist span the likes of Luther Vandross, Cher, and Keb ‘Mo, and include hit sessions such as Patti Austin’s “Through the Test of Time” (1990) and Lenny Kravitz’s “New York City” (2014). Given his steady work outside of the spotlight, it’s no surprise that his chops sound just as bright and dynamic today as when he was first heard on wax in 1981. Take a First Listen to “Time Has Come Today” and welcome back D-Train!

    by Justin Kantor

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