Calvin Richardson - All or Nothing (2017)

Calvin Richardson
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Calvin Richardson - All or Nothing

The Womack family has been in the news in the past year. Binky, the son of Curtis Womack, released a record after years behind the scenes. His father, Curtis, passed away earlier this year, leaving his eldest uncle Friendly as the last surviving member of the singing siblings that has been making music collectively and individually for more than 60 yeas.

Though not related by blood, Calvin Richardson has a body of work that makes him this generation’s closet link to the singers from the 60s and 70s such as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and especially Bobby Womack. Richardson released a cover album of Bobby Womack songs 2009, and his gravelly baritone makes him ideally suited to take on “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” and the tunes on that record.

Calvin Richardson - All or Nothing

The Womack family has been in the news in the past year. Binky, the son of Curtis Womack, released a record after years behind the scenes. His father, Curtis, passed away earlier this year, leaving his eldest uncle Friendly as the last surviving member of the singing siblings that has been making music collectively and individually for more than 60 yeas.

Though not related by blood, Calvin Richardson has a body of work that makes him this generation’s closet link to the singers from the 60s and 70s such as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and especially Bobby Womack. Richardson released a cover album of Bobby Womack songs 2009, and his gravelly baritone makes him ideally suited to take on “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” and the tunes on that record.

Of course, there are plenty of contemporary artists who possess a vocal ‘old soul’ – Andra Day and Jaheim come to mind. Richardson, perhaps more than most, embraces the blues and southern soul community and that can heard in the production and the attitude of All or Nothing, his latest album.

“Treat Her Right,” the lead single from All of Nothing, is an original that possesses an old-style southern soul spirit in part due to Richardson tapping Chicago based blues and southern soul legend Willie Clayton as producer. “Treat Her Right” opens with Richardson giving a monologue – Womack style – that warns men to be mindful of how they treat their women. The ballad that features bluesy, wah wah guitar licks, Richardson’s gritty vocals and gospel quartet styled backing vocals.

In a way, All or Nothing has two personalities. Many of the tracks, such as the aforementioned “Treat Her Right,” and the mournful begger “Breaking Down Inside,” find Richardson diving deep into the old school southern soul that he loves so much. That love explains why he is so effective at rendering songs in this style. For me, the album’s gem is the blue light slow jam “Make Up Love.” That track features a laid back bass line and the whoever engineered those dreamy strings should get a raise. I don’t know if the make up loving Richardson refers to his the kind couples engage in after an argument or the type that occurs when folk are making up for lost time. Either way, this one is going to get some people in trouble.

Yet, Richardson is aware that as a young man who has also watched and been impacted by the musical movements that occurred in more contemporary times, he looks to fuse his old soul and distinctly mature vocal instrument with elements of neo-soul and even hip-hop, as is heard in “Make Me Say Nah Nah Nah.”  

“Break it  Down,” a grinding cut that fuses contemporary R&B techniques with a pulsating funk bass line, finds Richardson transfixed by the sensual moves of a dancer. Perhaps he is at a gentleman’s club, or maybe she’s his lady she’s giving him a private show. Still, the lyrics come off as somewhat cliché. Much better is “Flowers” (or perhaps I’m just a sucker for good old fashioned romance).  Richardson’s strong and emotive baritone is ideally suited for singing songs that reveal a level of vulnerability when he is singing some of that good advice form the elders.

Richardson is a bit of a paradox. Is he retro? Perhaps he’s neo-soul, but then there’s also a bit contemporary R&B/hip-hop in there. Usually, he gets included with the old school cats, and he’s probably cool with that. On All or Nothing, Richardson navigates between all three personas on a project that is might be hard to pin down, but is easy to listen to. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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