Maybe you’ve noticed that people seem to share sentiments of nostalgic dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. It’s all over the ole blue and white (that’s Facebook to those cyan agnosics). People are questioning their beliefs, looking for answers, and finding it difficult to separate the true from the false. In such jarring times, when there is no cat video that could possibly calm your unease, turn to music. Dirty chai at hand, I listened to Kindred the Family Soul‘s latest release, Legacy of Love. It is worth mentioning that this neo-soul duo is not only joined in the bonds of holy music, but in matrimony as well. She is Aja Graydon and he is Fatin Dantzler. This is their sixth album.
“Love Is…Pt 1” is an aptly-named opener to Legacy of Love. The lyrics captures Love in its giant net, with terms like “radical,” “magical,” and “credible,” before Lanaa Dantzler, lends her voice to deliver a collection of syllables which, at the perfect speed, turn into something bouncy and free. Jumping into the album like potatoes into bubbling water, “Welcome to My World” bounds along like a kangaroo under a clear sky punctuated by cirrus vocals. The track is a bienvenue to the listener, an introduction to the sensuous way that Aja articulates each word and each note sung by Fatin is smooth and tactile like the seat of a handmade Windsor. Aja and Fatin let them in by singing, “welcome to my world, welcome to my heart.”
The next track on Legacy of Love, “All My People,” pounds into action like motors revving at an intersection before anyone advances when the light has just turned green. Kindred sing of the possibility of living in an atmosphere where all inhabitants have what they need, the haves are generous with the have-nots, everyone puts in their best effort to keep things afloat. The belief that this is a utopia that is within reach is what keeps young liberal arts graduates gravitating toward nonprofits, it’s what makes the old man folded up into an upholstered metal chair strike up a conversation with you while you’re waiting for your lad nar. It’s what keeps the education advocates from self-destructing at the thought of the worst-case scenario for the American education system in the next decade or so.
“Get There” soars on air currents of soul, with the gentle but persistent urging of Fatin and Aja as they repeat “get there” urging listeners to live, love, work, and play with the mindset established in “All My People.” As “Nobody Like You” gets going, the staccato rhythm of the drum, underscored by a whisper of bass, is soon joined in by funk guitar, heating things up like baking a strawberry pie in July. The lyrics tell of the nebulous, indescribable power that dominates our thoughts, expectations, and understanding of the world. And it’s all because of that one person – whether it’s your partner, your unrequited love, or your fantasy – that it is possible for you to experience the infinite joy and pleasure that comes from their sharing their love with your, and their allowing you to love them.
“Where Do We Go” creeps up on the listener with faint guitar chords, overlaid with even fainter “Where do we go, where do we go from here?” This makes you want to lean into your speakers to pay maximal attention. The song is a ballad; it hints at the series of ugly and gruesome events that have occurred in the past several years: patterns of victims becoming vigilantes, piercing screams shattering the tranquility of a place of worship that has become the backdrop for a horrific event, and good souls languishing in captivity under the misguided laws of the land. In the track, Kindred question the reality in which they find themselves, asking, “Where do we go from here?” The percussion is cleverly syncopated over the regularity of the piano chords, adding a layer of depth to the soundscape.
A little heavier and a little thicker, like steam rising off that first slice of pie when you just can’t wait for it to cool, blasts of soul open the next track on Legacy of Love, “Never Know.” Fatin delivers the first verse, pleading with the listener to not judge a book by its cover. When both take on the vocals in the chorus, (Don’t be scared / you never know / Be prepared / you never know / Say a prayer / ’cause you never know) the joining of voices is a comfort in the face of discomfort, like hospital ice cream. The second verse is delivered by Aja, whose heavenly voice swoops in to encourage the listener to remain positive and to spend more time loving than hating. This is message people could do with hearing more often.
The title track begins with upbeat piano with an infectiously funky bassline, with snaps of percussion. Aja delivers the vocals with the delicious shifts in tonality that brings the lovely and vivacious voice of Lauryn Hill to mind. Fatin comes in, providing the listener with a place to hang their hat – or, perhaps, their headphones. If his vocals are the Ficus carica, Aja’s vocals are the sweet, sweet figs. Fatin sings with conviction, and unabashed appreciation for the woman who has chosen to make him the centerpiece of her own Legacy of Love. Dynamic use of autotune creates a human-guitar hybrid that pushes the limits of what man and music might do and become.
With a triumphant tone, somehow appropriate after “Legacy of Love,” “Going All the Way” continues the album towards the final stretch. Aja’s vocals contrast with Fatin’s like coffee beans from Honduras hiding subtle savory and sweet flavors when compared to Papua New Guinea’s. Percussion like a basketball on a Saturday morning begins “Another One,” and is soon joined by an irresistibly simple melody. Fatin begins the back and forth with that neo-soul sound that slaps you one way with rhythm then slaps you back with a shot of lyrical reality. Like a needle on a record or a needle to the skin something else bumps out when it pumps in / it could be blood or feel the sound system / with the fly melody / lyrics in rhythm / It’s another one. The rhythm feels good like the first rays of sun after a thunderstorm or like a glass of water when eating too much salt has given you tinnitus. The songwriting in this track, with its playfulness in the temporal, semantic, and phonetic realms, made me drool. (Luckily, I was outdoors when I listened.) “Another One” is a track that can scratch your itch and ease your existential waffling.
“Moving On” takes a step back to reflect on the length and depth of Kindred’s journey in the world up to today, anticipating the inevitably unpredictable future that stretches out beyond the point of visibility. (There’s probably a small craft advisory in there, but that only makes the swimming better – as long as you stay strong.) The sound of “Love Is…Outro” is wild with the orderly chaos of the natural world. The drums and bass combo brings that urban vanguard feeling of something larger than you, moving ahead at breakneck pace but it’s all around you so you don’t notice anything until you stop to appreciate your surroundings.
The Boogie Back Remix of “All My People” is like two-stepping in wide-leg pants. The bounce makes you want to move. When the lyrics are delivered in the presence of such sweet-sounding kinetic power, it gives the listener the sense that anything is possible. This remix, tacked on at the end of the album, lends the track a festive vibe, and inculcates the belief that if you work for the good of the group, then everyone can celebrate together. The more, the merrier. It is a final celebration for the album, and it leaves the listener feeling refreshed, full of vim and vigor and zip and zeal.
Kindred the Family Soul has produced an album that is marvelously funky, soulful, and ultimately beautiful in its depiction of love in all its forms, sometimes painful and something joyful, from the most intimate to the most public. This album might serve as an instruction manual to all newcomers to society, or at least to those auditorily-inclined entrants. Aja and Fatin share a bond that is expressed quite well with music. I hope they never run out of ways to describe it.