In truth I know nothing about the contemporary black music scene. I'm a stranger and lost with no bearings. So when something this deep, rich and thrillingly musical comes out at me I'm disoriented and dumbstruck. It's like hearing Son House for the first time. It comes from a universe of difference and it rings straight as a die. It comes on the stylish Independiente label.
When I listen to the mock hop garage and self stroking R&B tripe on daytime Radio 1 I wonder "isn't there any real stuff in there?" And, lo, out comes Nile. She sounds as English as Beth Gibbons, as American as Daniel Lanois and as African as Ali Farka Toure. Throw in well absorbed Buffy St Marie and mellowed Nina Simone, go a mile beyond Sade Adu and we're getting closer. Born Jenée Grevious somewhere nonsensical like Ohio, she's been five years making this album. Andrew Darden and Ron Cauvin have done the writing, producing and arranging. You can't ignore it. Whatever you do to live, thrive and survive, do you do any of it with this level of attention and accomplishment?
Melody, inspirational rhythms, ambient loops and strange beats surge through the whole thing. Monster bass lines pull you down and in. Nile's voice is husky, expressive and dreamy. Cicadas sing on a distant lawn. The lead out groove from a Billie Holiday 78 crackles endlessly.
You can take it track by track, you can set the whole 13 to roll for the special evening in with a friend.. Either way it works. It's rich enough for close listening, it's emotionally stable enough for the calming backdrop that prime time musac promises but fails to deliver.
Drop in on "3 in the morning" at (obviously) track 3 and get the general picture. There's an intro of crackles, bleeps and a menacing male voice like a stoned dentist. A string synthy part glistens andand some scat samples introduce te light end of the vocal range. Then 13 seconds in that huge warm bass drives it forward into luscious nighttime dream mode. "Can you hear the music? His vibe just turns me on" she sings. Dead right. It's gorgeous. 2 minutes 30 in and the dentist arrives in a Wesley Snipe coat and one thing on his mind.
Twelve others just as good. Cityscapes and country scenes flicker in and out. The music flows on alike a river.
Nile. Good name. Big sales? Must be.