Most of you reading this already know that I’m an old school kind of brother.
I like my rappers without skinny jeans and nose rings.
I like my cars without gigantic rims.
I like my ladies without Optimus Prime-colored weave.
And everyone once in awhile, I want my R&B pure. No awkward infusions of rock and dubstep, no annoying producer screaming AYYYYYYYE all over the track. Just easy, smooth R&B.
To the untrained ear, City Heart, Southern Soul, the latest release from R&B crooner Noel Gourdin, might be too laid back – or at worst, dull. That’s far from the case. Gourdin sticks close to R&B’s roots simply letting his voice glide off of light, airy production.
If you’re a fan of Vh1’s “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” (and if you are, I’m praying for you) you’re probably familiar with “Don’t You Wanna.” It’s a bouncy cut that eschews sleaze for romance. The track bursts with energy simply from Gourdin’s vocal inflections and those ultra-infectious keys. It’s message and construction is simple, yet very effective. That’s the story for most of the album, which plays out as an extended love letter.
On “Spotlight Lovin’,” Gourdin uses a gentle groove to reminds his lady that’s she’s like “Valentine’s Cady in the middle of June.” Horns rev up the proceedings on “Foxxxy” while the organs on “Come Over” provide a vintage sound. He’s not reinventing the wheel here, he’s just making sure the ride is smooth.
Speaking of vintage, that also goes for the album’s themes. Gourdin sticks to time-tested matters of the heart. Lyrics like “I can’t wait to see your face but I gotta be patient,” from “Patience” might not be Shakespeare, but they’re heartfelt. The doo-wop composition gives the track a refreshing hint of familiarity, with just a dash of naiveté. Gourdin ignores the love-haters on “Heaven Knows” as he professes his commitment to his woman. And the self-explanatory “Can’t Wait” is a tried-and-true duet with the vastly underrated Avery Sunshine. They almost sound like middle-schoolers experiencing love for the first time. R&B needs more of that endearing honesty.
At just 10 tracks, City Heart, Southern Soul, doesn’t leave much room for error. It’s a tight album that wisely never overstays its welcome. Admittedly, the album is often too safe – Gourdin doesn’t take any chances and sticks to what he knows. But thankfully, what he knows best is how to produce a solid, no-frills R&B record.
Sometimes, that’s all you need.
Best tracks: “Don’t You Wanna,” “Can’t Wait,” “Foxxxy”
4 stars out of 5