Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Nakia: “Drown In The Crimson Tide” (2013) CD Review

These days when folks mention R&B, I usually cringe, because most of what is called R&B has neither R nor B. So it was with a great joy and surprise that my ears greeted Drown In The Crimson Tide, the new EP by singer and songwriter Nakia. This six-track CD features some actual R&B. I’m so happy to learn that people are still making music like this.

Nakia Reynoso, who was raised in Alabama, certainly has the right voice for it. He is able to sound both smooth and raw, able to easily convey emotions without getting bogged down in sentiment. It’s a voice with power.

This EP features all original tunes, each written with a collaborator.

Drown In The Crimson Tide opens with “Tight,” which begins with a very brief acoustic moment, before the fun R&B beat begins. And then the song is this great throwback to the heyday of Stax. It has that kind of sound.  Here are the first several lines: “I was an outsider kid/Picked on at school for the things that I did/Mama, she was crazy/Daddy was gone/Same old story, same old song/My whole life’s been a shame/It’s been tough being this way.” The song then builds from there, and shows what Nakia can do vocally.  I would cut that little acoustic intro, as it sort of gives you the wrong impression of where this song is going, and it’s too short to accomplish anything on its own.

“Tight” was written by Nakia and Chris Seefried.

“Make Up With A Gun” is one of my two favorite tracks from this release. This too has an excellent early R&B feel, and a great (and catchy) groove.  Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Meet me at the station/Just keep out of sight/Cash your check at the dollar store/And let’s go chase the night/Tell me that you love me/Look me in the eyes/Inside every shadow is a beautiful surprise.” There are also some pretty backing vocals by Ainjel Emme in that section, which add a certain depth to the sound. There is a sort of false ending, and the song returns briefly in a more folk – or even country – vein. I dig the whistling in that last section, and actually wish the song were a bit longer. 

“Make Up With A Gun” was written by Nakia and Aris Archontis.

“Dream Big” is a slower, bluesy song that reminds me a bit of 1980s blues, particularly in the vocals during the chorus. The EP’s title comes from this song’s opening lines:  Alabama is so hot in the summertime/It’s so easy to drown in the crimson tide/Mama told me there’s more to life than this/She gave me a penny and said, Boy, don’t you waste your wish.” This song has some of the mandatory elements of the blues, such poverty, heard in lines like, “When I got to Chicago, I couldn’t even pay the toll/Working two jobs, barely had time to sleep/No, you can’t get started if you can’t even make ends meet.” 

“Dream Big” was written by Nakia and Bleu.

Nakia veers more toward rock with the energetic “Pieces And Castles,” which reminds me at times of Joe Cocker in the mid-1980s. It’s actually an interesting song, in that he sings of a strange sort of dedication to someone, with the repeated lines, “I just can’t get along without you/I just can’t make it on my own.”  But it’s not like he wishes to be dedicated to this person, for their relationship didn’t work before. And yet he still needs this person, as he sings, “And I just can’t help thinking that I’m worthless without you and I’ll die with a broken heart.

“Pieces And Castles” was written by Nakia and Barry Goldberg. (You might recall Barry Goldberg as one of the founding members of The Electric Flag. He also played with Bob Dylan at that famous 1965 Newport Folk Festival gig.)

“When I Found You” is my other favorite from this EP. This slower and gorgeous ode has an older feel, which I love, and it’s due in part to Barry Goldberg’s work on piano and Hammond organ. Goldberg also co-wrote this song. The horns are a wonderful touch, and also work to give the song a convincingly authentic R&B sound. And then there are those great backing vocals. This is just an all-round great tune. And there is a nice change toward the end, when Nakia sings, “You believed in me/You believed in my song/All along, when no one would listen to me/You were there with a smile and a shoulder so strong.”  He delivers such an earnest vocal performance.

“Walking On A Slant,” the EP’s final track, is a fun, bluesy rock number. The horns really make this one work. “Walking On A Slant” was written by Nakia and Brian West.

CD Track List

  1. Tight
  2. Make Up With A Gun
  3. Dream Big
  4. Pieces And Castles
  5. When I Found You
  6. Walking On A Slant

Drown In The Crimson Tide was released on March 5, 2013 on Something-Music.

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