Soul Understated - Songs in the Key of Grease (2017)

Soul Understated
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Soul Understated – Songs in the Key of Grease

There will be a temptation to view Songs in the Key of Grease, the new EP by the group Soul Understated that is led by vocalist Mavis “Swan” Poole and drummer Jeremy “Bean” Clemons, as another in a line of retro albums released in recent months that range from solid to excellent. And I’m sure that Poole and Clemons would not stringently object to that characterization.

The EP’s title honors one of the great records from Stevie Wonder’s creative peak, and Poole’s muscular growl that embodies both the church house and the road house might remind some of another Mavis. The spirit of soul, blues and funk coarse through the arrangements from tracks such as the playful and double entendre filled “Wibble Wobble,” as well as the funky, go-go infused “So What,” a cut that finds Poole giving her insensitivie man a tongue lashing.

Soul Understated – Songs in the Key of Grease

There will be a temptation to view Songs in the Key of Grease, the new EP by the group Soul Understated that is led by vocalist Mavis “Swan” Poole and drummer Jeremy “Bean” Clemons, as another in a line of retro albums released in recent months that range from solid to excellent. And I’m sure that Poole and Clemons would not stringently object to that characterization.

The EP’s title honors one of the great records from Stevie Wonder’s creative peak, and Poole’s muscular growl that embodies both the church house and the road house might remind some of another Mavis. The spirit of soul, blues and funk coarse through the arrangements from tracks such as the playful and double entendre filled “Wibble Wobble,” as well as the funky, go-go infused “So What,” a cut that finds Poole giving her insensitivie man a tongue lashing.

So, pegging this EP as one that is ‘old school’ is on point. However, Poole is a versatile singer who easily interjects contemporary vocal stylings into her delivery. The sparse arrangement on “The Way I See,” a track that finds Poole reluctantly telling her lover that their relationship has run its course, features Poole’s conversational stream of consciousness vocals over neo-soul percussive groove, airy synths and piano flourishes.

“My Fantasy” mixes 70s-style call and response backing vocals with a dreamy instrumental arrangement as Poole tells a story of a woman who clings to her personal fantasy that another girl’s guy belongs to her, while “Monkey” showcases two virtues that are constant throughout Songs in the Key of Grease – strong lyrical content that leans toward storytelling and Poole’s ability to shift vocally from conversational to soaring into the upper registers. “Monkey,” a play on that saying that one monkey don’t stop the show, finds Poole dispensing advice to a friend that the pain caused by her no-account man will – like all things – pass.

When searching for a way to describe Songs in the Key of Grease, perhaps it’s best to say that the EP possess an old soul that comes through on each track of this EP, regardless of whether the tune in question features a brand of R&B that is retro or neo. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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