London-born to Ugandan parents, Michael Kiwanuka has become something of a "next big thing" in the British music scene, but on the evidence of this quietly confident debut album he seems to vindicate the praise being heaped on him.
It's not just that he connects to the soul and spirit of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks (the Afro-horn influenced opener Tell Me a Tale), and a folk-soul take on Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding in reflective mood, but that the gentle orchestrations and arrangements support yet let his voice take front'n'centre.
And that voice seems to contain an almost unnatural amount of hurt and a battering by life -- he's only 24 -- which he either articulates (Always Waiting, Worry Walks Beside me) or sings of getting past (the lovely I'm Getting Ready, the title track). He also suggests rather than states (the hint of Motown/Stax on the finger-snap, lightly jazzy Bones).
Kiwanuka sings of the strength of faith in the subtle way Gaye used to, and in Rest he has a weary, modern day soul classic which sounds instantly familiar.
Because a similar mood prevails throughout the 10 tracks, opinion will be divided as to whether he needed to mix up the energy levels to stretch himself or that this works better for the soulful tone-poem quality.
Frankly, I think this is more impressive for being so lowkey, intimate and subtle.
Yep, his time is gonna come. Sooner rather than later, I think.
Like the sound of this? Then you should check out Otis Redding.
By Graham Reid, posted