EP Review: Nakia – Drown in the Crimson Tide

Deftly walking the tightrope between crafting classic soul and serving up something contemporary, Nakia‘s EP Drown in the Crimson Tide has it both ways. Remaining true to the style and spirit of southern-fried soul of the Memphis variety, Nakia still sounds current; there’s no artifice nor hamfisted retro pandering in his six self-penned tracks.

The neo-soul movement has brought to prominence some compelling artists of late: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Akina Adderley, James Morrison, Mayer Hawthorne, The Right Now, The City Champs and many others. And though his recorded output to date has mostly flown under the radar – Drown in the Crimson Tide follows an earlier EP and two albums, one a collaboration with Alejandro Escovedo – he presents strong evidence that he belongs on that list.

In addition to his soulful, expressive voice and solid no-frills musical backing, Nakia Reynoso writes thoughtful lyrics: “Make Up With a Gun” digs at the motivation behind firearms ownership. The autobiographical “Dream Big” telegraphs its point in its title, but the heartfelt lyrics explain what keeps this artist moving forward. “Pieces and Castles” is less soul and more r&b/rock, and it has the feel of John Hiatt or Warren Zevon. Melanie Taylor‘s stacked-overdubbed vocals add a gospel flavor.

And in the rare case when Nakia does consciously try to emulate the sounds of old – as on the dramatic ballad “When I Found You,” he hits all the right notes. Channeling his inner Otis Redding, he’s backed by The Texicali Horns, an outfit that’s clearly ingested a steady and healthy diet of Muscle Shoals Horns. And once again Melanie Taylor’s vocal backing helps take things to another level.

The highest praise that can be conferred upon an EP is to suggest that it’s over too soon. That’s certainly the case with Drown in the Crimson Tide; hopefully another full length will come soon from this Austin-based artist worth following.

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