Reviewed by Chase Hoffberger, Fri., June 29, 2012
Singer Candice Sanders packs sporadic power ("Crawlin'") on par with ATX soul queen Akina Adderley with Candiland's AJ Vallejo-produced Rumble in the Playground (Vallejo Music Group), a debut disc that, when not evoking memories of cheese-ball Meat Loaf ballads ("Karma"), gets comfy in a hard soul pocket. Highlights: the bold "Burn Me, I Cry," isolating "Sweetly," and high-octane title track that will have you on your feet. Vallejo's second producer credit here comes via Naga Valli's Eastern Soul, an East Indian-infused collection that pays just as much attention to Latin American rock as it does modern R&B. Call it an acquired taste. Eastern works if you're into Hindi scales ("Damadam Mast Qalander") and Middle Eastern scatting ("In Your Love"), but this ain't your daddy's soul singer. Smooth-talking R&B crooner Trenton Law makes his bid for Austin Musicman via his 14-track debut on local soul imprint Hot Pursuit Records. The Mobile, Ala., native boasts a polished voice he's comfortable showing off, but hollow musicianship and too many wasted measures give Musicman a low ceiling. Law's run his course by fifth track "Work It Out" no matter how hard he channels Hotter Than July-era Stevie Wonder on "Time for Love" and "Try and Hide (I'll Find You)." That's better than one could say about Groove Think and the trio's seven-song EP Discovering Phonons, which opens with juke-joint jazz on "Fortune" before culling pseudo-flamenco fingerpicking on "Adonde Se Fue" and elementary funk with "Prescription Meth." Anybody who can make it through Groove Think's cover of Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar" is a better man than me.