In a recent biography and press release, Nigerian-born composer-vocalist DOUYE (/doe-YAY/) mentions that "Douyéism" involves taking influences from former styles of world music, mixing it together, and serving up a whole new groove. If that's the definition, consider me a bona-fide convert to Douyéism.
The sophomore release from Douyé, "So Much Love", a three-year-long master-crafted labor of love, definitely comes to play, but by the end of the day, it not only takes its ball and goes home, but takes the rest of the neighborhood's toys too. Douyé's vocal command of the work is evident from the first note sung on the album and made even more remarkable when one discovers that she does it backed by Grammy-caliber producers and artists all at the top of their game - an amazing feat for an artist who is likely considered a relative newcomer by the industry. At least until now.
Douyé first came to the United States with a dream of becoming a world-class composer and vocalist. One of the first major steps in that journey began with the fortunate introduction to songwriter Terry Shaddick -- known for his work on Olivia Newton-John's hit "Physical" -- that she met while a vocal major at the Musicians' Institute in Hollywood. Since Douyé's debut album, "Journey" (2007), the two have created a strong composing team and the listener knows from the first lovely and sultry track, "Till Morning Comes" (with master producer/arranger Chris Sholar), that he or she is definitely in good hands all around. The album sparkles with outstanding writing from Shaddick and Douyé, but also in impressive performances from her fellow seasoned studio artists, and finally in flawless production on thirteen original tracks.
"So Much Love" is an accurate title for the album, as the majority of the tracks deliver positive messages centered around the celebration of life and love, and her passion for making music with an all-star ensemble is evident throughout.
The second cut on the album, "Love Rules" is a soulful slow-jam in which Douyé's vocal fire turns up and begins to show us another glimpse of the wizard behind the curtain. Her vocal delivery here remains uniquely her own, yet reminded me of the snarkiness and bite traditionally heard in Macy Gray or Des'ree.
Immediately following the attitude of "Love Rules", two world-class guitarists enter the ring on "Dance With You", kicking off with a gorgeous a capella Spanish guitar solo from Craig Bell and later backed by the legendary Ramón Stagnaro (lead guitar/solos). The low burning flame at the dawn of the album has now finally grown to a white-hot Flamenco midnight bonfire whereby Douyé opens up to wail her desire to connect with a partner beautifully. Although saxophonist Eric Marienthal is credited on the track, "Dance With You" is most certainly a full-bodied acoustic guitar feature and brilliantly ushered by legendary drummer John Robinson; it is easily one of my favorites on the entire album and is entirely too short of a delicious trip to Southern Spain.
Continuing in the smooth Latin tradition, maybe on the plane ride back from Spain, Douyé's tenacious attitude returns on a modern, off-beat beguine called "Man Enough", where many women worldwide will relate when she sings, "Don't want a man in disguise / Being what he's not ..." Saxophonist Andy Sync dialogues perfectly with Ms. Douyé here, but it is worth mentioning that the fantastic drumming of the late Ricky Lawson, very likely one of his last studio performances before his untimely death last month, takes center stage due to his heavily-syncopated backbeat and flawless timing. What begins as a mellow beguine blooms to a full-blown funk by the end of the tune, and Douyé rises to the message of the song through her dexterity and strength as a vocalist. It will definitely take an extremely strong man to be "man enough" for her spirit and genius on this track.
Winding down slightly, the album moves into "Golden Days", featuring trumpeter Rick Braun on flugelhorn, a dreamy nostalgic memoir of the innocence of childhood. Guided behind the scenes by Grammy-winning producer and engineer, Dapo Torimiro, gorgeous vocal harmonies comprise the heart of the memory.
By the sixth and title track of the album, the groove on "So Much Love" is in full effect. Written as a loving tribute to the late and legendary Fela Kuti, Douyé expresses her longtime admiration for the fellow countryman and Afro-beat pioneer in her delivery, but primarily allows the band to step forward and shine in their own right. Rhythm guitarist Patrick Owens lays down a sweet ostinato that drives the groove throughout this fun and funky half-time feel samba, and Kevin Wong's salty tenor solo help close down the song in style.
"Wake Up", featured next, is one of the only pure ballads on the album, and addresses a difficult subject that many people avoid discussing. Douyé intones: "We act like we're so unaware / Wake Up, wake up, wake up! / I'm talkin' 'bout madness ... " Douyé calls us to talk about true insanity, about which the rest of the world often refuses to acknowledge, let alone help, people who experience mental illness on a daily basis. Pianist Phillipe Saisse accompanies Douyé in her message, not only on the piano itself, but also in beautifully arranged synthesizer and string sequences.
"Life Is Good" is the eighth offering on the album and previously had been released as a hit single on worldwide smooth jazz and neo-soul stations. This perky and lighthearted funk highlights the appreciation of the little things in life that often make it worth living -- cool green iced tea and ice cream on a hot day, watching the squirrels play -- and especially Eric Marienthal's cool riffs at play behind Dapo Torimiro's masterful rhythm section programming. The memorable hook says it all: "Like a day in Hollywood / Where everything looks good..."
Like a day in Hollywood, the good feelings don't last for too long. The next track delivers a deep and minor tale on "Writing on the Wall". Douyé tells of the darker side of a love beginning to sour and whereby the narrator is likely the last to know. "I should have known / The signs were there after all / Like writing on the wall." This track features beautiful background vocals from Douyé herself and Jeff Pescetto, like a Greek chorus in a tragedy, spinning the tale and sadly shaking their heads at the protagonist. "Should have known ..."
On "With You", the vibe remains mellow, but again positive and tender toward a loved one. Eric Marienthal returns to solo on alto saxophone to support the story and Douyé proves that even on an understated and mellow groove, she can sing a soulful ballad with strength and courage. As a fellow songwriter, I especially enjoyed the surprise tonal modulations between the chorus (2:42), brief instrumental interlude with beautiful piano from Dapo Torimiro, and return to the chorus in the coda.
On the eleventh track, "You're The Only One", Douyé rightfully cops the attitude shown at the beginning of the album to relate a story of a relationship that proves itself to be alternately loving and emotionally cruel. She bemoans: "You can be so sweet / Lovin' me like no one can / But you've got a mean streak / Tryin' to prove you're a man" (... maybe the lover is overcompensating and thinks that this is what it takes to be "Man Enough"? ...) In any event, this offering is a heartfelt tale of what many of us may experience in the course of being caught in the throes of an obsessive love/hate relationship. A classic 'can't live with you, can't live without you' scenario, but set to a sweet and snarky slow-jam.
On "Loved By Love", the next to the last track on the album, Douyé isn't quite ready to go home just yet. The track is a heavy reggae groove that carries the message "Now I know how it feels / Loved by loved and love so real."
Finally, the album closes on a soft and short note with "Through It All", a tender acoustic guitar-led lullaby that, if covered by country stars such as Brad Paisley or Keith Urban, would be a fantastic cross-over tune. This sweet finale showcases Douyés ability to sing a delicious ballad that appropriately sets us down easy after enjoying a very strong album.
Douyé's "So Much Love" releases for worldwide sale on February 11, 2014. Listeners can get to know Douyé further and show their love for her fantastic music via her website at http://www.douyetheartist.com, on Twitter @DouyeTheArtist, and on her Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Douyé/369429454293.
Kathryn Ballard Shut
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