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Jsoul: Black Sinatra

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Jsoul

Black Sinatra

Blackout Studios

Three albums into a solid solo career, Jsoul—aka local singer/songwriter Jamal Smith—knows not to fix what ain’t broke. On his 2004 debut Urban Retrospective and 2008’s Love Soldier, Jsoul aimed for—and squarely hit—a classic soul sound tempered by beats and breaks more familiar to the modern ear. It helps that his voice is ideally suited for this mood: Robust but gentle, hefty but controlled, Jsoul sounds like he could belt it out with the best of them but prefers to make the knees wobble with a gentle caress. The effect is like a power forward who is perfectly at ease posting up and banging it out in the paint but can turn basketball into ballet when he’s on the wing in a fast break.

Jsoul sticks to his mix of old and new for Black Sinatra, another jolt of silky smooth feelings and lyrics riding atop the gentle grooves and the occasional bumping grind. Jsoul’s approach is perfectly suited for songs about romance’s ups and downs, be it the brush-off “Go Away” with its near trip-hop background production, or the come-hither “Frequency,” which moves along with a hand-clap stroll and a seductive bass line.

Two great additions show up on Sinatra. One is the presence of female singers such as Philly soul child Carol Riddick, British diva Julie Dexter, and Floetry’s Natalie Stewart, who provide a nice counterpoint to Jsoul’s inviting pipes. He has always sounded great alone, but when harmonizing with the angelic Riddick (on “Tell Me”) or playing off Dexter and Stewart (in the seductive every-little-thing-is-going-to-be-alright reassurance “Closer”), the vocal performances add an extra pillowy layer to already plush and downy feelings.

The second is Jsoul tackling a club beat on “Up in the Club” and making it entirely his own. You wouldn’t think club’s frenetic tempo could support a bedroom coo, but Jsoul finds an inviting space between the beats to make the bouncing energy into a cool-down vibe. It’s a sprightly and instantly catchy joint, equally at home on the dance floor or the chill-out lounge, and hopefully there’s more where that came from. (Bret McCabe)

For more information visit jsoulblacksinatra.com.

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