Do you remember that special feeling inside that you experienced the first time you realized you were attracted to that special guy or girl? Avion Blackman's "I Love You Father" from her album Onyinye sweeps you off your feet in much the same way. It is a special song that is easy to get caught up in and comes from the lips of a fresh young artist who promises to get even better.
The press releases compare Blackman to Norah Jones and Sade however she is much closer to the latter than the former. Even on this debut CD you see more vocal versatility than is often the case with Jones.
The CD subtly fuses strong jazz overtones, world music and reggae with simple, yet thoughtful lyrics and a soulful voice. Producer Mark Mohr (Blackman's husband) weaves a tapestry of flutes, electric and acoustic guitars, percussion, saxophone, keys, piano, mandolin, violin, cello, synthesizer and the list just goes on into unbelievable tunes. As the instruments meld into a kaleidoscope of gentle whispering tunes you allow yourself to become enveloped in their relaxing ambience.
In the Igbo language Onyinye means gift, with songs like the aforementioned "I Love You Father", the title track "Onyinye", "Blue" and "You'll Return" this CD is a gift not only to the Christian music scene but to the entire music world.
Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the album bears sonic reminders of Blackman's roots, after all she grew up as the daughter of Lord Shorty (Ras Shorty I), credited for founding Soca and Jamoo music, and spent much of her adolescence deep in the jungles of Trinidad.
"Onyinye" is dedicated to the memory of April Blackman, Avion's older sister who passed away at the age of twenty. Four of the songs from the CD were penned by April, including the beautiful prayerful "Show Me" with lyrics that petition the Almighty to mould us into a vessel worthy of bearing his name.
Avion Blackman appears as the bassist on her own album and Mohr guests as a vocalist. North America first got a good look at Blackman as the bass player and lead vocalist with Mohr's band Christafari and really grabbed listeners with her vocals on "Hiding Place" and "My Sustenance" from the group's CD Gravity.
I particularly liked the lyrics of the second track Onyinye which is a curious mix of Island tempos and pop beats.
You have the freedom
Freedom of expression
So use this freedom
To express your love
If you enjoy reggae music you will love the fourth track, "I Thank You Lord", penned by Mohr and sung by Blackman. The song also highlights the effortless vocal ability of Blackman. I am sure she worked hard to complete this project with Lion of Zion Entertainment but through much of this album you get the impression that it was effortless when composing these stunning lyrics.
The most creative song on Onyinye is "Blue" combining great jazz, soulful vocalsůthat would have rivaled Diana Ross and Anita Baker at their peak, with techno overtones and Mohr's incredible voice providing some cool vocal support. Ladies you will want to listen to this song just for his voice.
If you only have even money to buy one CD over the next month make it this one, you won't be disappointed.
Writer: Joe Montague