With his 2002 release The Headphone Masterpiece, singer/ songwriter, and all-round soul troubadour, Cody Chesnutt hoped to find the “sonic promised land”. It garnered some success but with an album title as ballsy as that, anything less then genius would be disappointing. Musical guest spots and sporadic appearances followed leading to a decade long hiatus. After a cash injection from a fan donation website, Chesnutt was finally ready to step into the studio.
This time, a ten-piece band and Al Green’s old microphone are the sources of inspiration and the result is a sumptuous feast for the ears. ‘Till I Met Thee’ is an uplifting, spiritual opener mixing gospel, blues guitars and vocals reminiscent of greats like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. Cody takes from this rich musical heritage and uses it to portray his own life experience. Beautifully crafted stories of redemption and personal growth under pin this entire record. On ‘Everyone’s Brother’ Chesnutt sings, “I used to smoke crack back in the day, gamble my rent money and lose; now I’m teaching kids in Sunday school”. This organically soulful and starkly candid record sounds effortless, as if the music drips from Chesnutt’s fingers so the melodies will take care of themselves.
Live instruments are used throughout to create a sound steeped in ’70s funk, blues and old school rock n’ roll. Meanwhile, the abstract jazz-tinged ‘Don’t follow me’ is built around a strange cautionary tale about choosing life’s destructive path, giving it an intensity which might not appeal to everyone. That intensity doesn’t fare so well in the rhythmic but repetitive ‘Don’t Wanna Go The Other Way’. Minor missteps forgiven, Landing on a Hundred has many stellar moments – ‘Chips down’, a mid-tempo soul epic could rival the classic songs of Chesnutt’s legendary predecessors. Overall this record is a brilliant homage to the classic soul sound.