Philadelphia soul is steeped in tradition, a pedigree that can claim numerous legends. You have the Roots of course, but also Philly International, which for a time was the leading voice in soul and R&B (with a guy named Teddy Pendergrass leading the way). In other words Philly knows soul, and native son Son Little is a breakout star who is carrying on that illustrious tradition.
Son Little’s self-titled debut album is a medley of styles — from your straight ahead soul and R&B to heavy-hearted blues and rock. Even elements of country and of course hip-hop make an appearance, the juxtaposition making for an engaging listen. The styles hold an incredible amount of flavor, and at the forefront is Son Little who needs no assistance when it comes to flexing his pipes (think T-Pain sans the auto-tune).
He opens with “I’m Gone,” an unorthodox choice laced with scathing sentiments. The idea that R&B has to be relegated exclusively to love and sex is fool’s gold and Son Little breaks that tradition on his first at bat. It falls like slow rain and the heavy bass makes for a dark offering. You get what you put in: [LISTEN]
Son Little embraces a multitude of styles and his voice has enough range to cater to each. There’s “Loser Blues,” which sounds like it was recorded in the back of some dive bar in the middle of nowhere, “The River” with enough hard-edged, rockabilly country to make Billy Swan nod in approval and then “Doctor’s In” which has deep roots in the neo-soul game, a song that can find a place right next to D’Angelo.
Comparisons aside, Son Little has a uniqueness to his voice that makes him a welcome presence, the type of vocalist who can launch relatively humble lyrics into a whole new strata with a simple inflection of his voice. He has range but doesn’t over do it. On songs like “Lay Down” he lets the tenderness of his voice do all the talking, embracing a homegrown type of intimacy: [LISTEN]
Modern R&B is a joke; full of gimmicks and trends, a charade that doesn’t respect the history. Son Little’s self-titled album is a project that reclaims the genre and gives it the attention it deserves. He’s the type of artist that embraces R&B’s past and present, and his album is as good a debut as he could have ever hoped for. An artist with supreme staying power.