soultracks review: tondrae kemp - sun money

He’s soulful, with a dash of folk, a little bit reggae and a slight peppering of everything else in-between; yet Tondrae Kemp possesses an engaging, yet unstructured approach to his music that isn’t exactly easy to overlook.

As he occupies both the Sun Belt and the East Coast (and has traveled everywhere throughout his young career as a musician), the composer and lyricist conveys a free-wheeling, practically streams-of-consciousness-type way of fleshing out memories and emotions. With vocals that are supple, glib and nearly conversational at times, Kemp's new release, Sun Money, is a CD where the arrangements are sparse (only four instruments are credited and two other vocalists beyond Mr. Kemp), sophisticated, and filled with a raw yearning.

Most would probably consider Kemp's brand an ‘acquired taste,’ but his undeniable talents can be heard loud and clear in the melodic, yet meandering “Can We Pretend,” the overtly R&B-flavored “Still Got Fire For You” and the 70s-era “The Little Things,” which sounds like it could’ve been a demo for The Stylistics or Delphonics, as Tondrae pays a humor-edged homage to the loyal lady in his life: “You stayed there when they towed the car, always by my side even when I’ve gone too far. Then once again, when I broke my arm, you were there like a lucky charm… bring me ice when I crack my head, you treat me nice when I should be dissed instead.”

Perfectly-paced music for a cross-country trek, a couple’s stroll on the beach or a laid-back soiree, Mr. Kemp’s oscillating from genre to genre can come across as an extended studio jam. The free-wheeling vibe (and occasional profanity) might be too much for more rigid listeners, but when his organic and innate gifts shine through (the blues-tinged “Happiness,” the swaggering “Gangsta Americano”), those who have the patience won’t regret the efforts it takes to absorb the sounds and ride out the eclectic angles and curves. Mildly Recommended.

By Melody Charles