As neo-soul increases in popularity, Miles Bonny makes his contribution with his 24 June release, “Lumberjack Soul.” Originally from New York City, Miles transplanted to Lawrence, Kansas, to attend Kansas University in 1999 where he began to produce music and launched the Lawrence-specific site, lawrencehiphop.com. Through his participation in various Lawrence hip-hop groups as well as an internship with Sub Verse Music, Miles gained an intimate relationship with the goings-on of independent hip-hop labels, which eventually led him to creating his own label.
As described by Miles’ label, Miles is “the missing link between D’Angelo and Willie Nelson.” On “Lumberjack Soul” (the only album with which I am familiar by Bonny), I can certainly agree with the D’Angelo connection. Upon my first listen of the album, I was not very impressed; the music was good, but, somehow, when combined with his vocals, I lost interest within the first half of the disc. That isn’t to say that “Lumberjack Soul” is completely intolerable—it’s more than likely just my own aversion to this type of soul. Actually, given the D’Angelo comparison, it truly is more of an R & B style of record. I’ll go ahead and break down a select number of tracks for you.
[wpaudio url=”http://wordisbond.data.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Miles-Bonny-01-Lumberjack-Soul.mp3″ text=”Miles Bonny – Lumberjack Soul” dl=”0″]
The album opener, “Lumberjack Soul,” is pretty soulful. It has a nice mellow cymbal-driven beat with a pleasing amount of record-scratching and trumpeting mixed in. Regarding the lyrics, Miles croons about beckoning a city-dweller to his “house of wood” in which to settle down. This was definitely one of the more agreeable tracks on the album.
Track number two, “Still Miles,” is a cover of R & B artist Raphael Saadiq’s “Still Ray,” which may be why this is one earns a bit of praise. Everything about this joint is pretty good until the synthesizer makes an entrance around the halfway point which, for me, killed the entire track. Thankfully, the noise is short-lived.
“5 O’Clock Suff” is definitely skip-worthy. Again with the synthesizer—an entity which looms throughout—is reason enough, but the lyrics are fairly sleepy, touching again on trying to convince a potential lover to spend time with him. But keep your finger on the “Next” button as you may be needing it sooner than you hope.
I don’t want to blurb about every one of the 16 songs on this disc, but I have to pause at #5, “Clap Clap,” a cover of the Meters’ 1970 jam, “Handclapping Song” (also covered/sampled by the Black Eyed Peas on their debut album, “Behind The Front”). Now maybe it’s just because of the association that I make with the BEP version (only because of their more recent works with Fergie Ferg), but I just can’t get down with this one. There is an abundant lack of variation and, again, the use of a synth in place of a bass guitar is rather detrimental to my opinion.
[wpaudio url=”http://wordisbond.data.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/MPM_106_05_Miles_Bonny_Clap_Clap.mp3″ text=”Miles Bonny – Clap Clap” dl=”0″]
The folksy guitar à la Jack Johnson gets a skip on track 6, “Nothing But You”. “A Song From Miles” pays tribute to the green Muppet, Kermit the Frog. What earns this track redemption is the fact that the beat combined with trumpet reminds me of Common’s “Like Water For Chocolate” opener, “Time Travelin’ (A Tribute To Fela).” OK, I’ll relent and admit that I actually did enjoy this one; the vocals are nice and the instrumentation is well-timed.
There was other track that I was able to enjoy: “Same Dream Again” (which, actually, is a production by artist 74 Miles Away) introduces female vocalist Ahu in the first half of the song. The piano work as well as the variation of vocals are what stood out to me in this one.
[wpaudio url=”http://wordisbond.data.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/MPM_106_09_Miles_Bonny_Same_Dream_Again.mp3″ text=”Miles Bonny – Same Dream Again (feat. Ahu)” dl=”0″]
The remainder of “Lumberjack Soul” is pretty much more of the same lackluster music underneath mediocre lyrical content/style. All in all, if you’re into the slower jazzy hip-hop, “Lumberjack Soul” is actually a decent release. For me, it was just kind of hard to get past the R & B-ness of the vocal work. If this is your bag, then you’ll probably be into this album. Were this a purely instrumental album (save the synthesizer), there is a good chance that I could get down with “Lumberjack Soul,” but, even still, it gets to be fairly repetitive.
[easyreview title=”Word Is Bond Rating” cat1title=”Lyrics” cat1detail=”Mostly revolving around some type of blossoming relationship. Fairly tiring.” cat1rating=”2″ cat2title=”Production” cat2detail=”The beats are a good blend of jazz and hip-hop. The brass work is nice, but the synthetic bass lines ruin each track on which they make an appearance.” cat2rating=”3″ cat3title=”Originality” cat3detail=”Pretty average.” cat3rating=”2.5″ cat4title=”Replayability” cat4detail=”Definitely not something I’d ever be itching to put on. OK as background music.” cat4rating=”2″ summary=”If the music were separated from the vocals, I would have been way more into it, but the combination left me wanting to skip each song in the middle of it.”]