Stranger On Earth
R&B, suffering a popularity not seen since disco, has seemed to have lost its way in a beat-heavy, thin-voiced mire. Many artists, such as D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott have chosen to reach back and out to funk and hip-hop to carve out a new direction. Lina’s definitely in this new old school. However, the dyslexic time machine took her to 1927 instead of 1972.
Stranger On Earth opens with muted, early-Depression horns and then explodes with the heavy, stuttering beats we’ve grown accustomed to in R&B. Then, the woman sings. Many have confused her affectations with the latest Billie Holiday imitators like Badu (who’s now in Chaka Khan mode) or Madeleine Peyroux. However, Lina is reaching back further to the scratchy 78s of a Bessie Smith. While quite imitative (she only breaks character once, to deliver the sweet ballad “Waiting”), her style is a refreshing change of pace — mixing the heyday of jazz with one of its children — even throwing in some trip-hoppy sounds in songs like “Don’t Say Nothing.”
A new sound is emerging in R&B, and many of the artists are reaching deep into their pasts to achieve it. If thatÃs what it takes and they continue to produce solid, enjoyable albums like Stranger On Earth, then I can do nothing but encourage them.