Kevin Ross - The Awakening (album review) (2017)

Kevin Ross
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Kevin Ross - The Awakening

Traditional soul, modern elements of R&B and fringes of hip-hop, wrapped in equal measures of sensuality, spiritual edges and being ‘woke’----successfully conveying one aspect is challenging enough, but Kevin Ross has managed to implement them all. Education (Berklee College of Music) and collaborating behind the scenes (SWV, Johnny Gill) can certainly help, but it takes genuine aptitude to build a buzz with an EP (2014’s Dialogue of the Grey) and release a fresh, yet familiar debut like The Awakening. His ambitions aren’t to reinvent R&B, but to expand its range and relevance, a goal Ross has certainly met.

Kevin Ross - The Awakening

Traditional soul, modern elements of R&B and fringes of hip-hop, wrapped in equal measures of sensuality, spiritual edges and being ‘woke’----successfully conveying one aspect is challenging enough, but Kevin Ross has managed to implement them all. Education (Berklee College of Music) and collaborating behind the scenes (SWV, Johnny Gill) can certainly help, but it takes genuine aptitude to build a buzz with an EP (2014’s Dialogue of the Grey) and release a fresh, yet familiar debut like The Awakening. His ambitions aren’t to reinvent R&B, but to expand its range and relevance, a goal Ross has certainly met.

Before the runaway radio smash, “Long Song Away,” Kevin Ross was the buoyant tenor who paired up with Chaz French for the feel-good mantra, “Be Great.” His entreaty to “shift the culture and move the focus/Rise above and lose vultures” was a lofty idea, but it’s certainly not his last: “Look Up,” with gospel singer Lecrae, thrums with an urgent percussive base and summarizes the disillusion felt by his Millennial peers while encouraging them to reach within and above: “Preacher preacher preacher, how you gon’ dare to judge me/You see the world is short of leaders, and the easy way out is just by following.”  Inventive beat-boxing propels “Pick You Up,” an ode to those who know the struggle is real, but still they toil to make their dreams come true. Kevin’s good looks and supple love sonnets will always keep the young ladies on-deck, but those tracks, combined with the veteran sound stylings of Ezekiel Lewis and Troy Taylor, help to secure a wider appeal.

If “Long Song” positioned Kevin as a burgeoning love-man, other selections won’t dissuade otherwise: “New Man” is a bluesy, tear-stained oath to a heartbroken ex, “Her Hymn” is downright gospel-esque, likens his lady to a grace-filled gift from on high, and “O.I.L.” swears that life is just existing if he must endure a future without her. Tracks like the acoustic “Easier,”  “Don’t Go” and “In The Name of Your Love” will surely recall another old-soul-in-a-young-body----Motown legend Michael Jackson----but Kevin’s artistry will distinguish a legacy soon enough.

In a recent chat with Billboard, Kevin Ross revealed that superstardom isn’t his only goal and he wanted listeners to come away from Awakening with a realization of “how necessary they really are to their culture, to their community and to themselves…understanding our greatness can change the world.” And after years of us being bombarded with messages about ‘situationships’ and ratchedness, waking up with Ross is just what music lovers need. Highly Recommended. 

By Melody Charles

 
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