Aloe Blacc is one of the more interesting soul singers to emerge from leftfield in recent years.
The US singer born Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins announced his arrival in 2011 with I Need A Dollar, a brilliant slice of charged social commentary on the hardships engendered by the global recession. Blacc sounded like a 1930s bluesman captured in a field recording, so eyebrows were understandably raised when it was learned that he was a former consultant to stockbroking giant Ernst & Young.
Blacc then resurfaced last year as the co-writer and lead vocalist on Avicii’s chart-topping club-soul crossover smash Wake Me Up, and this week looks set to enjoy a number one in his own right with Elton John’s Your Song-sampling The Man. It’s quite a CV for a to-date resolutely low-profile figure.
He will remain an enigma after this curate’s egg of an album, a record that raises more questions than it answers. Blacc can certainly sing: his husky growl, evocative of soul greats such as Sam Cooke and Stevie Wonder, resonates on tremendous tracks such as Red Velvet Seat and Ticking Bomb.
It’s bizarre, given his undoubted star quality, that Blacc can let himself down by lapsing into overly trite lyrics that a greeting-card quality controller would reject as too cheesy. Love Is The Answer finds him cajoling listeners to “Look, and you will find”; Here Today declares that “We are here today, and…” – guess what? – “gone tomorrow.”
But there’s enough raw and original talent here to make it a directing listen. If Aloe Blacc can cut the clichés, he could really be something.