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September 18, 2016:
CRYSTAL THOMAS: Lyrical Gumbo: The Essence Of Blues (Crystal Thomas/Jones Boy Ent.) Two Stars ** Dubious. Not much here.
Lackluster material and lack of focus torpedo the debut of the talented Crystal Thomas, a strong-lunged vocalist who has been touring the Louisiana chitlin' circuit with Jeter Jones. Jones, an up-and-coming southern soul singer with two albums (one produced by Eric "Smidi" Smith) under his belt, executive-produced, with Thomas herself doing the writing and some of the producing, along with Slick Ross, Tomi Gran and Gary Smith.
The album may hold more interest for straight blues fans. The young songstress's vocals boast a wonderful, deep-registered tone and potential gale-force delivery, although the latter isn't called for in this collection of songs. But there is nothing that meets the more exacting, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? standards of the current southern soul fan.
A near-miss on Daddy B. Nice's "Top Ten" Singles the last two months, Crystal's ballad "Country Girl" is the one song in the set that emits real feeling. Yes, there are programmed horns, and the overall production is rudimentary. But "Country Girl" contains believable, personal emotion and a corresponding sense of place, and jives with the performance identity Crystal Thomas could attain, with perseverance, within the southern soul world.
Listen to Crystal Thomas singing "Country Girl" on YouTube.
The other two candidates for radio play and concert performance are the collaborations with Jeter Jones, "Something Something" and "Work It." With the promising lyrical hook--
I like your front
And I love your back.
--"Work It" nevertheless sputters too generically along a well-worn funk riff to merit time-and-again listens, while "Something Something" utilizes much the same chords and chord progressions as "Country Girl." And the voice-overs by Jones on both duets have an empty, almost off-putting bravado. (His contributions on this CD come off as a little too facile.) There's nothing on this CD, for example, as original (and yet restrained and authentic) as the Jeter Jones/Crystal Thomas duet on the new Beat Flippa Vol. 2 album:
Listen to Jeter Jones and Crystal Thomas singing "Them Country Girls"on YouTube.
The balance of the Crystal Thomas album is straight blues: "Somebody Else's Man," "Baby Don't Leave Me," "What I Been Looking For" and maybe the puzzling "Excuse Me Miss." Not really the happy hunting-grounds of the southern soul fan. Two ballads in the latter half of the disc--"I Can't Be" and "Cheating On Me"--go in a more pop direction and are better specimens of what Crystal can do--like the acapella gospel ending of "I Can't Be" and the CD-ending, head-turning, acapella-gospel fragment, "Until You Come Home To Me."
--Daddy B. Nice
Sample/Buy Crystal Thomas' LYRICAL GUMBO CD at CD Baby.
--Daddy B. Nice