Will Hammond, Jr. - brothafromanuthaplanet

Will Hammond, Jr.
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Soul Folk is the alter ego of San Francisco based singer/songwriter Will Hammond.  Hammond scored a decade ago as the writer of Tara Kemp's international hit, "Hold You Tight," and has been a popular local act in the Bay Area.  He has also collaborated with jazzsters the Braxton Brothers.  However, despite his work supporting a number of recording artists, Hammond did not himself recorded an album until 2004, with his Soul Folk debut brothafromanuthaplanet.

Soul Folk is the alter ego of San Francisco based singer/songwriter Will Hammond.  Hammond scored a decade ago as the writer of Tara Kemp's international hit, "Hold You Tight," and has been a popular local act in the Bay Area.  He has also collaborated with jazzsters the Braxton Brothers.  However, despite his work supporting a number of recording artists, Hammond did not himself recorded an album until 2004, with his Soul Folk debut brothafromanuthaplanet.

While there is no explicit reference to the 1984 John Sayles movie of virtually the same name (about a slave from another planet finding himself on the streets of Harlem), there are similarities too obvious to ignore.  brotha has an intentional futuristic, outer space feel, but not from the vantage point of 2004.  More like the feel of the future as anticipated in 1974.  Listening to the disc, you can obviously hear vocal similarities to Omar (to whom Soul Folk is most often compared).  However, there are also elements of "old school" greats the Gap Band ("The Beginning"), Steve Wonder ("Days and Nites in the City") and even Earth Wind & Fire ("Love Affair").  But while there is a certain retro feel to brotha, it is not a derivative piece; Soul Folk is trying to accomplish something very different and original on the disc, and generally he succeeds. 

Using mostly electronic keyboards, guitar and bass, brotha is absolutely a mood piece front to back, with all the positives and negatives that that brings.  The down side is that there is a certain sameness to the disc that may not appeal in large doses for casual listeners.  But the positive is that it hangs together very nicely as a total package, creating a consistent, laid back groove that gets more interesting with each spin.

The disc's best cut is the title track (currently a minor hit in Europe), a melodic, danceable cut that sounds like Maurice White and EWF at its best.    Much more Neo-Soulish, but also quite enjoyable is the duet with Kemp, "Searching 4 Silver."  Even better is "Highway 101," a midtempo cut that reminds me of a top drawer Soul II Soul cut.  In fact, other than a few spoken interludes that create some atmosphere but are otherwise forgettable, the album is quite well written and performed, and is different than just about anything else out there right now.   As a loose theme album, brotha takes a little more concentration than most current R&B discs.  But it is worth the challenge and rewards the listener with an infectious groove that's just a little off center. This is a disc worth finding.

 
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