Amel Larrieux has been on the scene since her work with Groove Theory back in the ’90s, but it wasn’t until her work as a solo artist that the true extent of her talent was exposed. Armed with exceptional writing skills, a versatile vocal style and productions drawing inspiration from around the world, Larrieux has created breathtaking music. Her third full-length, Morning, combines the straight-up soul and folk feel of Infinite Possibilities (2000) with the more experimental vibes of Bravebird (2004), and it’s her finest work to date. The album’s success lies in her ample vocal talent and the creative productions that create an inviting bohemian atmosphere.
Larrieux’s vocals are hard to pin down, but they are instantly recognizable. She has an incredibly powerful voice, but there is an earthiness and humility to her that shines through. She is never showy or over the top, instead letting her talent speak for itself. Larrieux can sing in a jazz style, like on “Earn My Affections,” one-upping contemporaries such as Jill Scott, or she can ride a funky groove, like on the joyful “Magic.”
Opener “Trouble” is a mish-mash of jazz, Caribbean and Brazilian influences under Larrieux’s playful chanting. The lead single, “Weary,” showcases the singer’s strengths as a vocalist and her talent as a songwriter. She muses on the plight of single women and produces an anthem for those longing for a relationship: “If I could trust someone/ To Have my back and never do me wrong/ I would give my lover/ Just like that/ stop singing the soldier’s song.” “Gills and Tails” is one of the strongest tracks on a consistently strong album; the smoky R&B groove is wrapped in Larrieux’s aching delivery and an irresistible hook: “Can I come up/ Can I come up?”
Production-wise, Morning pulls from folk, soul, jazz, Middle Eastern and African references, but never from the contemporary sounds found on radio and MTV. Thus the album has a certain homegrown and personal feel that is missing from most music today. Morning is an exceptional piece of work from an artist who is too often overlooked. It’s the crowning achievement of Amel Larrieux’s body of work, and it deserves to be treated as such.
Amel Larrieux Web site (streaming audio/video)