Kawan Debose - Vintage Soul (2009)

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    Kawan Debose
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    Too say that what qualifies as vintage soul is subjective is an understatement on par with saying Madonna likes attention. For some, unless vocally there are jazz riffs and gospel acrobatics aplenty, then it lacks that "it" factor of the old school. Then there are those who prefer a more emotionally understated bluesy brand with restrained styling, weighty vocals, and the occasional belt to accentuate a vulnerable moment. Floridian soul man Kawan Dubose will please the former and irk the hell out of the latter. A five-octave church trained vocalist, Dubose strictly follows the Daryl Coley academy of vocal histrionics. In his debut project's jazzy soul production and spacious compositions, Dubose also impressively approaches his brand of vintage soul in much the way Coley approaches gospel.

    Largely recorded live with church-trained musicians and a pitch perfect background quartet; the nine-track project has the feel of a naughty gospel concert. The good news is that Dubose has the immense talent to pull off 90% of whatever "holy cow" vocal trick he attempts, as with the soprano riffs he nails on the intricate "Fool In Love." His ear for placement and luscious harmonies is unfailing on the Quincy Jonesesque "Dabossa Nova" and the swaying "Tonight," a keeper cut whose beauty is only marred by the strained trumpet of Jean Caze. However, on a cover like Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," an over-singing Dubose interprets the song in a way that leads one to question Dubose's own mental state. His take on gospel comes close to "Crazy," but his keen musicianship keeps "Replica" relatively sane. In what is otherwise an auspicious debut, I'm blaming these occasional hollerfests on the eagerness of his youth and the fact that Dubose self-produced the entire project. A good producer in the studio will help edit this vocal virtuoso on a much-deserved second go-round. Yet, depending on what you call vintage soul, Dubose may have nailed it just right on his first.

    Notable songs: "Fool In Love," "Da Bossa Nova," and "How Can You Say You Love Me"

    Vocals: 3.0
    Lyrics: 2.5
    Music: 3.5
    Production: 3.0
    SoulTracks Call: Recommended    

    By L. Michael Gipson