If you're like me and a member of Generation X, consider yourself lucky because we came of age during the most invigorating and innovative time period that music ever had----the 1970s. Some of my fondest life memories ever involve block parties and cross-country car trips booming with Motown, The Sounds of Philadelphia, Stax and countless other soul icons.
And if that privileged level of audio education wasn't enough, my parents taking their then 7-year-old along to see Earth, Wind & Fire solidified a burgoning passion for stage performance and live musicianship.
In my years as a pro, I've learned that, obviously, not everyone in the streams or on the charts can offer up floating pyramids, a stage jam-packed with immeasurable talent and charismatic singers in bell-bottomed fro'd-out glory, but when one particular artist does display an organic range in both live AND digital formats, hooking your eardrum from the first moment a note reverberates, that level of performance prowess is rare and worthy of celebration. So, drumroll please----pull back the shades and bask in The Sunroom by Avery Sunshine.
Ever since I saw Avery open for Kem a couple of years back, tickling the ivories and exuberantly pouring her heart and sultry soprano into songs of uplift, I knew she was going places and that I would be happy to join her for the ride. And that's what the music of this Chester, PA native does----floats you into a space of sweetness with a modern flair, yet an unapologetic hearkening to the vintage apple-hats and stacked-platform-rocking era of soul music.
Ms. Sunshine and her collaborator, guitarist Dana "BigDane" Johnson, have spent years combining and cultivating their skills, weaving tales of everyday love and life situations into rich tapestries, all their own thanks to BigDane's guitar and Ms. Sunshine's chameleon-esque delivery: the upbeat "One Foot Ahead" has a jaunty jazz undertone, horns punctuating Avery's resolution to "step out on faith, just like I know I should/today is the day that I leave all those things behind me that are doing me no good." "See You When I Get There" beckons and soothes, a swaying rhythm that invites others to follow their destinies as they see fit and that wherever they end up, she'll be waiting.
What many may find remarkable is that Johnson and Sunshine, only in their 30s, have mastered a way to exude optimism without coming off as giddy, goofy or 'la-di-da' pretentious. It's a unique type of artistry that can sing the Lord's praises (the spine-tingling "Safe In His Arms," "Meditation #1"), coax a war-wounded love veteran back onto the battlefield (the funky, Al Green-recalling "Won't You Try") and yearn for more horizontal quality time (the lush and languidly-paced "Sweet Afternoon") without losing focus or intensity, all while making the transitions seem as easy as skipping a track (don't worry, you won't feel compelled to do that in The Sunroom). It isn't all that easy to do, but if I had to pick one standout to play on 'repeat,' it would be the salty "I Do Love You (You Ain't Got To Lie)." Reminiscent in tone to Jill Scott's "Cross My Mind," Ms. Avery sassily tells a man, with tambourine-shaking and guitar-plucking, that both adoring him and being with him are mutually incompatible and, for the sake of serenity, she's hitting the bricks: "What was that you just said, up under your breath?/You done worked my very nerve, yet are tap-dancing on the one I got left." *insert waving church fan and praise-dancing here if you've been there with your man/woman. I'll wait.*
Avery Sunshine's Sunroom offers just what it implies: a warm, inviting spot far away from modern madness of obligatory hip-hop injections and Auto-Tune where folks can revel in some retro-fitted, rejuvenating soul music. She's familiar, yet refreshing, sweet with just the right amount of spice to keep the palette satisfied. And whether you're ready to throw open the blinds to absorb it all or let it peek in bit by bit, all of us could use a hearty dose of Sunshine. Enthusistically Recommended.
By Melody Charles
Click Here to listen to "The Sun Room"