Conya Doss - Still (2008)

Conya Doss
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Conya Doss has a good thing going. First of all, she has a day job that she loves. Doss, as her fans know, is a teacher in the Cleveland public schools. Those fans, however, know Miss Doss best through the quality work she does on her "other" job as a soul singer. That job has earned Doss respect in the industry as one of the major figures in the indie soul movement. Through her first three albums, Doss fused the elements that true soul lovers desire - plain spoken lyrics that avoid clichés; positivity that eschews preachiness; high quality musicianship and vocals. She also displays a deft ability to bring something new to that many splendored and much discussed thing called love. Doss provides all of that on Still, her fourth studio album. But she also gives listeners a little something new. Apparently, Doss doesn't spend all of her time imparting knowledge to those young and eager minds.  She spends some time listening to the music her students listen to.
Conya Doss has a good thing going. First of all, she has a day job that she loves. Doss, as her fans know, is a teacher in the Cleveland public schools. Those fans, however, know Miss Doss best through the quality work she does on her "other" job as a soul singer. That job has earned Doss respect in the industry as one of the major figures in the indie soul movement. Through her first three albums, Doss fused the elements that true soul lovers desire - plain spoken lyrics that avoid clichés; positivity that eschews preachiness; high quality musicianship and vocals. She also displays a deft ability to bring something new to that many splendored and much discussed thing called love. Doss provides all of that on Still, her fourth studio album. But she also gives listeners a little something new. Apparently, Doss doesn't spend all of her time imparting knowledge to those young and eager minds.  She spends some time listening to the music her students listen to. The result of Doss' schooling is "Something 2 Nite," a bouncy ditty that falls softly on young ears - and at least one pair of old ones.

Doss, who often plays music for her students, said during a phone interview that she brought the CD to class recently. "Something 2 Nite" was the song that her students gravitated to. I pretty much had the same experience listening to the record while taking my oldest daughter to school. So if "Something 2 Nite," stands as Doss' pitch for some much deserved radio airplay, it appears she'll have some anecdotal evidence to present to those station managers. Doss, however, says that's not what she was going for.

"I didn't think about it like that. Some people said that's a little outside your box, and I was like ‘good, because I don't want to be inside the box.'" "Something 2 Nite" might sound different, but the artist said the song is classic Doss. The topics she addresses in her songs often come from the every day things people experience in relationships. It's easy to see how a person who lives in Cleveland could relate to a song about just wanting to get out of the house - especially in the bleak winter months when the first instinct is to stay inside, cut the heat up turn the TV on and eat a bunch of comfort food.

"Some of my die-hard fans are aren't really feeling "Something 2 Nite," Doss, who said she thinks the song is good even if it's not her favorite track. "But I thought it was a fun cut. I like the subject matter because I can relate to it and I know a lot of other people can."

Look, sometimes the kids get it right. "Something 2 Nite" may not be the best song on Still - which says a lot about the quality of the album. However, it's a very good song with a catchy beat and great lyrics.  Doss sings "Something 2 Nite" with an urgency that illustrates the frustration that she is trying to convey. The song is a great piece of R&B storytelling. It would be ironic - but not surprising - if this is the song that blows Doss up.

Besides, Doss gives her fans more than enough of the soul music that has made her a top draw in Europe and one of soul music's hidden gems on this side of the Atlantic. Some of the many highlights include the opening track "Common Ground," in which Doss uses a conversational style to tell a lover that they need to decide where they want their relationship to go. Doss fans will also be pleased by the soulful "It's Over." In that song, Doss decides to take the initiative and end the relationship. The understated but solid musicianship is punctuated by handclaps that give the song a churchy feel. Doss herself uses her experiences as a teacher to deliver the kind of verbal tongue lashing that is part had-it-up-to-here lover and part this-is-definitely-going-on-your-permanent-record teacher.

The album also includes two radio ready duets for the grown and sexy crowd. The first, "How About Us," falls into a lazy summer day groove from the opening guitar lick. The song explores the complications of taking their relationship to another level. "Emotions" is a funkier duet as the two singers vent about a relationship gone sour.

"Message" is the song that is getting the most attention right now - and for good reasons. It's a classic indie soul joint that combines a pensive and jazzy melody with thought-provoking lyrics. The song is basically a heartfelt statement of appreciation that works as the soundtrack for anyone wanting to say thanks to parents, grandparents, mentors or anyone who been somebody's rock. "Right On Time" is the one song Doss mentioned during the interview. The trip-hop anthem stands as more evidence of the singer's willingness to go her own way.

Still... is another strong effort by the Ohio native. Her willingness to step outside that box stands as a statement of musical independence and increases the chances that Doss will gain much deserved popular acclaim to match the critical success that she has rightly earned.

By Howard Dukes

CLICK HERE to read Howard Dukes' interview with Conya Doss

 
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