The New Mayer of Soul

The past few years have seen a clutch of young male crooners embracing the lost art of blue-eyed soul with no-nonsense prowess. Beyond the reinvention of Warp Records wonderboy Jamie Lidell, Eli “Paperboy” Reed and the lesser-known Jesse Dee have plied hooky horns, airtight backing, and creamy singing to arrive at something greater than the sum of its nostalgic parts. Michigan-raised, Los Angeles–based Mayer Hawthorne is next in line, and he’s more noteworthy still. Why? Because his take on vintage soul was enough to win over connoisseur Peanut Butter Wolf, who signed Hawthorne to his respected Stones Throw label. Also, because Hawthorne played every instrument on his dreamy debut, A Strange Arrangement, in addition to writing and singing the timeless tunes. Wolf was reportedly shocked to learn this, which is understandable: There’s nothing homemade, amateur, or half-formed about the album. Rather, it’s glossy and charismatic, and delivered with vibrant depth. If Hawthorne is missing a drop or two of the genre’s hard-bitten grit, he instills his songs with a reassuring wisdom. “The Ills” tackles Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath with brush-yourself-off optimism, and “Shiny and New" looks toward a bright future. The same can be said of Hawthorne himself.
Tue., Sept. 15, 8 p.m., 2009

 
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