Ledisi - Pieces of Me (2011)

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    Usually, writers loathe simple sayings and well-worn clichés, but when it comes to describing the evolution of Ledisi Anibade Young, “art imitating life” is only one that fits.
    Since childhood, the Oakland, California transplant (by way of New Orleans) has nurtured her craft, performing in city-based productions (as part of a cabaret troupe and as Dorothy in a local rendition of The Wiz), studying opera and piano at the University of California of Berkeley and enrapturing music lovers with her effervescent stage aura and gumbo-styled approach to lyrics and vocalization (some jazz phrasing here, a pinch of blues there, a dash of funk and hip-hop stirred into a steamy, urbanized concoction of soul).  Recognition for Ledisi’s skills started with her one-time California-based band, Anibade, but finally gelled after a pair of popular independent releases (2001’s Soulsinger: The Revival, and Feeling Orange But Sometimes Blue the following year) garnered her an international fan base, a solo deal with Verve and a pair of Grammy Award nominations and for the critically-acclaimed third CD, 2007’s Lost and Found.

    In some cases, an entertainer's personal and professional growth run parallel to one another, but Ledisi’s paths constantly intersect:  if the years of uncertainty and soul-searching between projects dominated the tone of Lost…., her rejuvenated confidence blossomed in its follow-up, 2009’s Turn Me Loose. Pieces of Me, if you will, represents a merging of the two, owning her fabulousness and acknowledging the flaws that create her essence as a woman.  

    Like she did in….Loose, Ledisi aligns her lyrical prowess and enviably elastic vocal range with some proven heavy-hitters, such as John Legend, Mike City, Chuck Harmony, Jaheim, Claude Kelly, KayGee and Carvin & Ivan. A variety of moods and genres are represented throughout: “So Into You” is a sweet and sultry mid-tempo, unabashedly praising a do-right man (“There’s so much more to us, but this is physical/ it’s like a carnival, and I’m ready now to go for a ride”). “Coffee” jumps off like a well-worn vinyl classic, buttressed with old school high hats and horns and dripping with fiery funk as she sassily describes the way she’s gotta have it, “tall, strong and dark, just like I like my coffee/that’s the way I like my man, that’s how you gotta love me, that’s the way I like my coffee.”  A twisted type of passion is described in “Hate That You Love Me,” a blues-tinged, almost-vampy taunt to a love-struck man hesitant about staying or leaving: “One call, two calls, three calls, is that what I do to you?” she purrs.  “You’re outside my door, scared to be alone, I know you’re addicted too.”

    Not that Ms. Young chooses to expound on just on the toe-curling, sentimental aspects (“Stay Together,” a nimble duet with soul crooner Jaheim, and the achingly melancholy reconciliation ode, “I Miss You Now”).  Ledisi is also empowering, encouraging those who are making strides in life to celebrate themselves and one another in the magnificent mantra, “Bravo,” and commanding that women recognize their worth before expecting others to in the doo-wop-flavored “BGTY (Be Good To Yourself).” “Shut Up” isn’t a love letter, obviously, but the powerful and  percussive track summarizes her attitude about Negative Nellys and busybodies who do nothing more than criticize---“They say ‘you’ll never be what you want to be, and you’ll never get but so far’/I’m trying hard, gotta hold my tongue, sometimes I really, really wish I could say, I wanna tell em’ ‘Shut up!’”

    “People just don’t know what I’m about, they haven’t seen what’s there behind my smile/There’s so much more of me I’m showing now,” Ledisi muses in the opening title track. But no one within the range of her voice will feel that she’s putting on pretenses in any aspect of this emotive, inspired and eloquent release. If this multi-faceted and mesmerizing approach is how Ms. Young expresses her musical gifts, then fans from every stage of her career will be more than content to sift through, and cherish, these powerful Pieces. Enthusiastically Recommended.

    By Melody Charles


    The mp3 Album of "Pieces of Me" is available now for only $5.99 at Amazon!