George Huff - George Huff (2009)

George Huff
GeorgeHuff110.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

With the number of former American Idol finalists having now crossed the 100 mark, it is increasingly difficult for these young singers who have been given a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to capitalize on their opportunity and fashion a real singing career.  For every Kelly Clarkston or Carrie Underwood who has become a musical force, there are a dozen Clay Aikens or LaToya Londons who have had initial moments of impact followed by a relatively quick fade from glory; and there are scores who never even got out of the gate with their careers after their exit from the show.

With the number of former American Idol finalists having now crossed the 100 mark, it is increasingly difficult for these young singers who have been given a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to capitalize on their opportunity and fashion a real singing career.  For every Kelly Clarkston or Carrie Underwood who has become a musical force, there are a dozen Clay Aikens or LaToya Londons who have had initial moments of impact followed by a relatively quick fade from glory; and there are scores who never even got out of the gate with their careers after their exit from the show.

Four years ago, George Huff chose what was then a less common route for his post Idol days, moving directly to the contemporary Gospel music circuit.  Huff quickly released a holiday EP before issuing a decent full debut album that quickly hit the charts but didn't have the staying power to keep him on the powerhouse Word record label.  While his two initial releases failed to provide the significant boost to his career for which he had hoped, they did accomplish one thing: they proved Huff to be a far better vocalist than his time on AI indicated - a singer with real distinction on record, good interpretive skills and a warm baritone voice.  What he needed was the right vehicle, and it wasn't certain that he would ever get that after leaving Word.

So, three years later, it was with some anticipation that I received his third release, the self-titled George Huff, being issued on the E1 label through independent distributor Koch Entertainment. And the very good news is that Huff has used this (last?) opportunity to truly take command of his music, co-writing ten of the twelve songs and issuing an extremely enjoyable Contemporary Gospel disc.

George Huff has the feeling of two albums combined, with each bearing the mark of its producer.  The first half, produced by veteran boardman Aaron Lindsay (Israel Houghton, Marvin Sapp), mimics the call-and-response sound of many of Gospel's most popular choir leaders, with Huff working his gruff baritone though a half dozen quality tracks.  Beginning with the bouncy "Victory" and flowing straight through to the wonderful ballad "No One But Jesus," Huff sounds both convincing and legitimate, taking control of the tracks as he works the backing choir.  And he even takes an excellent detour in this set, issuing the Memphis influenced "Turn It Around," a song that gives full praise via a bluesy groove.

The second half of the disc is produced by newcomer Jamiene "J-Skills" Thompson, and it is decidedly hotter, with a stronger R&B vibe. Thompson's work is clearly influenced by the work of Detroit's PAJAM production team, and it shows most on two solid tracks, "Free" and "Grateful," sounding like first-tier J Moss outtakes.  But best of all is the dance cut "Destiny," with SWV's Coko joining in on a track that, if given a chance by radio, has the makings of an urban hit.

While being a former American Idol contestant doesn't mean what it used to, George Huff is still one of the franchise's most memorable non-winners. And with George Huff he (again) shows that he has the vocal personality and musical talent to be a major singer in his chosen genre of Contemporary Gospel.  While not necessary distinctive musically, this album is a fine spotlight for Huff the singer - and he simply sounds great.  Huff delivers an extremely enjoyable hour of melodic R&B-influenced praise music that not only surpasses his debut release, but stands on its own as one of the better Gospel albums of the year.  This may be the breakout disc that Huff richly deserves; but even if it isn't, it will nevertheless serve as a very welcome return for a talented young singer. Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 

Leave a comment!