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Record Review from web archive April 30, 2009

Nakia

Water To Wine (self-released)

Soul music. With its categories and subcategories – from northern and neo to country and deep – it can be a tough concept to pin down. You might want to rely on a variation of that classic method for identifying porn: you know it when you hear it.

On the first half of this assured debut, Alabama-raised and Austin-based Nakia (last name Reynoso, but he goes by just the first) echoes various definitions of soul from over the years, some irrefutable and some fringe. “Choose Your Poison” is reminiscent of Eric Burdon’s beat-heavy work with War. “World Of Love” doppelgangs Derek & the Dominos’ slice of denim soul, “Bell Bottom Blues”. The whistled opening of “On The Bus” (click here for free track download) seems to pick up right where Otis Redding’s whistled ending to “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” leaves off – a rather brazen move for a rookie.

The title track recalls the recordings made by R&B belter Barrence Whitfield in his second and third acts with Tom Russell and the Mercy Brothers, respectively. And “Make Love Mine Tonight” builds a bridge from Memphis to Detroit by imagining the husky, hooky work of Otis Clay at Hi smoothed a tad by an undercurrent of Smokey Robinson. I heard it. I know it.

Most of the second half of the record sticks close to those five flavors, with the payback number “Elizabeth Lee” a dead ringer for recent Whitfield, and “Outta My Head” another Hi-Smokey showcase for Nakia’s rock-of-my-soul pipes. And as a bonus, the songwriting holds its own (with half of the ten songs written by fellow Austinite Michael Fracasso), touching on social issues as well as the personal. And for those still not converted, Nakia ends the album with the gospel number “Safe Inside”. The arrangement is standard; the vocals are far above. Did you hear it?

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