Black artists, with Jimi Hendrix being one of the notable exceptions, often find it difficult - if not impossible - to receive their just artistic and commercial props when trying to break out of the musical ghetto.
Black artists, with Jimi Hendrix being one of the notable exceptions, often find it difficult - if not impossible - to receive their just artistic and commercial props when trying to break out of the musical ghetto. It's manifestly unfair, especially when considering that many non-black artists have historically received well-deserved acclaim for their works in the jazz, blues, R&B/soul and hip hop world.
That is the major reason why the excitement I felt when hearing Colour Me Blue was tempered with the realization that this CD is going to be ignored by large segments of the American R&B/soul and alternative music community for the simple reason that Reuben's Thread is fronted by a black woman performing in a genre not classified as "black" or "urban."
And that's a shame because Colour Me Blue is an excellent recording. Let's start with Bell's voice: She sings with clarity, strength and confidence needed in a genre where the minimalist arrangements serve to expose singers with weak voices. Her clarity and range come through on songs like "Sunset."
Bell's lyrics on the songs also stand up to the scrutiny that comes with making music that demands that the listener actually listen. The song "Just Like You" is one of many standouts. It reads like a letter from a single mother to the absentee father where she talks about the struggles she faces raising her son alone. In the chorus, Bell gives voice to the uncertainties many single moms face when trying raise teenage boys with the help of a man: "What should I do for him now/Cuz I done everything that I know how/What could I say to him when he just don't talk to me about what he's thinking/Should I just leave him alone and pray he works it out on his own/He used to listen to you/and if you were here you'd know what to do."
Also working in this project's favor is brevity. In a time when many performers stack the CD's with 17 songs - 8 of which are filler - Colour Me Blue has only 9 tracks. For those who complain about the sameness of music today, buying Colour Me Blue would serve as a great opportunity to move out of the musical comfort zone. Highly recommended.
By Howard Dukes