This Week's Featured Download
Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators
Keep Reachin' Up
Light in the Attic
Listen & Buy
The much-needed tru-skool soul revival continues to pick up steam with the stateside release of the stellar Keep Reachin’ Up, currently only available as a digital download, (the CD hits store shelves in late-July). Nicole Willis has been kicking around the modern soul scene since the mid-‘80s, performing with early incarnations of the Brand New Heavies and Deee-Lite before leading the influential, unheralded NYC-based band the Repercussions in the early ‘90s. By the close of the decade, she had relocated to Finland, where she released two critically acclaimed yet little heard albums produced by her husband, Jimi Tenor. But judging by this collaborative effort with the Finland-based Soul Investigators, it seems that Willis’ ship has finally come in.
This excellent album of feel-good Northern soul-funk tunes has slowly been gaining word-of-mouth notoriety over the past year or so. Originally released in 2005 on a tiny Finnish label, the lead-off single "Feelin’ Free" became a leftfield pop hit in that country, and soon after Gilles Peterson proclaimed it "Single of the Year," and with good reason. "Free" is a near perfect slice of authentic sounding sunshine soul that could easily be mistaken for a lost Tammi Terrell outtake. The rest of Keep Reachin’ Up is a solid, meticulous recreation of classic-sounding cavernous soul with a touch of summery psych-pop for good measure. Amy Winehouse fans will find a lot to like, but minus the boozy, profanity-laced self-confessions -- just sunshine, smiles and losing yourself on the dance floor…and there ain’t nothin' wrong with that, my friends. All in all, a most welcomed and refreshing listen that should appeal to anyone with any sort of ear for song craft. And if you're still stunned from the Winehouse windup from last year, then the heavy hooks from the velvet gloves of Willis and company will leave you on the canvas in starry, cross-eyed bliss.