Kindred the Family Soul - A Couple Friends (2014)

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    Let's face it: it doesn't take much effort to find songs about the joys and excitement of new love. All formulaic scenarios aside, there's still something intoxicating about that first look, the first conversation, that spine-tingling kiss and the moment you both decided that you wanted to be together forever (or, for the 20-somethings, maybe the immediate time being). 

    However, in comparison, it's more of a challenge to find quality songs about maintaining those relationships after the dopamine-fueled 'crazy in love' stage.....meaning, when bills are overdue, the kids are trading viruses back and forth, nerves are fried and there's barely a moment for a quick kiss, much less date night. Unions with extra miles on them aren't less vital of course, but they do require extra wisdom and TLC, which is what Kindred The Family Soul expresses with aplomb on their fifth studio CD, A Couple Friends
    Working as a self-contained unit unto themselves and the parents of six children, Aja and Fatin are used to living and loving in the eye of the hurricane, so to speak, but according to the Mrs., Friends is the first recording that didn't find her expecting or acclimating to a new baby. That truth doesn't seem to change their sound, but it does seem to sharpen their focus and provides more of a lived-in feel to the sentiments behind the music. 
    Fans who have Kindred's stellar 2011 set, Love Has No Recession, will notice that Friends is less about the world at large than its predecessor, but just as aware and well-produced. There's still concern about life beyond their doorstep, but Dantzlers are more pressed about keeping the home fires burning in colder times. "Everybody's Hustling" has a soothing, easy-breezy feel, for example, but still drops hard gems about how finance shouldn't totally dictate one's romance: "Working two jobs but need two more, two more...your credit score may not be high/but don't let that be the reason why you don't give things that extra try." "Call Me Crazy" is similarly-paced, with the duo acknowledging their less-than-perfect struggle but loving the journey all the same. With the exception of the hypnotic "Here We Go," the tracks of Friends feel retrofitted to and reminiscent of the heyday of 70s-era soul, yet still express the dilemmas that all couples face with a modern edge. 
    With their usual competence and chemistry, Kindred and their longtime sound providers (Vidal Davis, James Poyser, Steve McKie) touch on the multiple stages of love, from the nunyabizness, Isaac Hayes-sampling "Get It, Got It" ("I won't compare what we got to what's going on over there.....we got nothin' to prove"), their bio of a title track (with a poignant piano bridge supplied by the legendary Valerie Simpson) and songs reliving giddy adult-only interludes in-between ("Drop The Bomb," "Loving The Night"). Fatin and Aja's personal and professional allegiance mimics a well-built fire, emitting warmth and brilliance that many celebrated 'It Couples' still fail to ignite. 
    Just like a classic brand, A Couple Friends feels both fresh and familiar. The passage of time hasn't dulled Kindred's flavor, but it does add a richness and texture that flashier newbies can't quite duplicate. Falling in love is easier than staying there, but the Dantzlers make those obstacles sound all the sweeter. Highly Recommended. 
    By Melody Charles
    Click here to listen to "Couple of Friends"