Gabriel Tajeu - Finding My Way (2013)

Gabriel Tajeu
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Using a tasty hodgepodge of Anthony Hamilton’s mature soul and Musiq Soulchild’s crooning, Birmingham, Ala. singer/songwriter Gabriel Tajeu is bending the rules of Southern soul. At heart, he’s a singer/songwriter, using Stevie Wonder-meets-John Mayer flexibilities to maneuver around a plethora of styles that are quite comparable to the singer/songwriter code. What you get in the end is a versatile artist who’s too unique for mainstream radio but too interesting to keep under the radar.

 

Using a tasty hodgepodge of Anthony Hamilton’s mature soul and Musiq Soulchild’s crooning, Birmingham, Ala. singer/songwriter Gabriel Tajeu is bending the rules of Southern soul. At heart, he’s a singer/songwriter, using Stevie Wonder-meets-John Mayer flexibilities to maneuver around a plethora of styles that are quite comparable to the singer/songwriter code. What you get in the end is a versatile artist who’s too unique for mainstream radio but too interesting to keep under the radar.

This contrasting sort of tapestry makes its way on Finding My Way – Tajeu’s first full-length project and halfway funded via crowdsourcing. Wisely the artist pushes his best work towards the front: “Raindrops” plays like a Bill Withers track dipped in mid-tempo Jay Kay soul. “Self Righteous” delivers glorified pop-coated melodies on a light-reggae shuffle. “Something It Ain’t” powers up a sound that Questlove and The Roots would have easily delivered as Tajeu opens up his bottle of confessions using a docile art of poetic crooning: “But I still think that my life could be something it ain’t/something it should be.” As the album marches onward, the instantaneous grooves become less apparent as Tajeu opts for slow churned ballads and comfy portraits of lounge soul. It’s not that a bad of a transition, especially when he shows off his appetite for genre-spanning on lightweight gems like the country folk ballad, “Darling Please,” and the Vanessa Carlton-tinged “Doin’ Just Fine.”

What gives Finding My Way its thick backbone is the massive instrumentation. There are no gimmicks here – just armed and dangerous musicians with an assignment to put live music back into heavy rotation. And, that’s probably why it’s easy to associate this kind work with classic soul records. You can hear Matt Slocum’s organ piercing through the speakers like a Booker T. Jones on “How Do I Tell Her.” There’s a real contemporary R&B urgency felt inside Mark Lanter’s drumming on “Patience.” Chad Fisher and a cluster of horn specialists give off Chicago-like arrangements on the opening lines of “All I Want Is You.” It’s quite marvelous to hear Tajeu not only bending the rules within his Southern locale but also pulling off a luminous indie album using army-like ferocity. Highly recommended.

By J. Matthew Cobb

 
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