Personally, I find it to be rather irksome when artists go on “soul searching" missions, and then use said mission as an excuse for making music. Usually inane, emotionless, and altogether rather silly music. It’s just very annoying, is all. It happens a lot, too, unfortunately. Modern music is full of artists that try too hard to be “deep" or “sensitive," and usually just wind up creating an album full of substandard, clichéd, and ultimately boring material. Good thing absolutely none of that applies to Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship
, the third album of multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter India.Arie.
Rather than going in for the whole “woe is me" approach with her latest release, Arie instead chose to explore some of the more upsetting sides of human emotion - particularly the end of relationships, closure, and eventual forgiveness - crafting these thoughts together into an extremely polished package. One thing that you can say for sure about Testimony
is that Arie put a lot of work into it. She had a little help, though. Akon
joins her on the album’s first single, a pseudo-pop tune by the name of “I Am Not My Hair." Arie finds side-by-side with the likes of Rascal Flatts
and Victor Wooten
on string-slinging joy of “Summer." Rachelle Ferrell
, Keb' Mo'
, Mark Batson
, and Bonnie Raitt
also make cameo roles throughout Testimony
Surrounded by this much talent, how could Arie possibly fail? Well, not only does she not, she also proves quite handily that she isn’t in need of much - if any - assistance to make fine music.
For what it’s worth, Arie is quite the capable musician. She finds herself playing an acoustic guitar for much of Testimony
, but also tickles the ivories every once in a while (which makes for a real treat). All of this is helped, of course, by Arie’s beautiful voice. The lady has a powerful set of pipes, to be sure. Arie’s crystal clear vocal-work is the defining factor of Testimony
, and it makes her stick out like a sore thumb (try to apply the term “sore thumb" in a good way). Arie certainly makes for a package deal by being a talented lyricist, as well. From the longing desires of “Better Man," to the central-theme reminiscent “These Eyes" or “The Heart of the Matter," to the jazz-influenced “I Choose," Arie lets fly wonderfully-constructed wordplay, covering a wide range of topics. Everything from her own life experiences, to current world issues, and even anecdotal and metaphorical examples in how nice assonance and alliteration can be when applies to musical terms, fuel Arie’s creative fires. Arie is the type of musician that likes to keep everything personal, yet isn’t afraid to let her feelings overflow into her songwriting. This fact is blatantly obvious on Testimony
, and is actually quite refreshing. This record can take a lot out of you in a listen, and for what it is, that’s a good thing.
’s division into several section by way of an introduction (“Loving“), two interludes (“Living" and “Great Grandmother" respectively), and an outro (“Learning"), add a sense of scope and depth to the album. It also allows Testimony
to go through its paces, and subtly change itself over time, while maintaining the general mood of the album on the whole. You see, one of Arie’s greatest strengths is her ability to appeal to fans of genres ranging from hip-hop and neo-soul/R&B, to folk, and the blues. The wide range of sounds and songwriting styles that Arie employs on Testimony
should appeal to just about anyone whose listening falls into those categories, and beyond. The only minor drawback to Testimony
is it can be a little too boring at times. The album, on the whole, does quite a bit to hold the listener’s interest, but some songs seem like they were placed in poor positions on the track list. Otherwise, the album is pretty near perfect.
India.Arie continues to impress and mystify with her third studio album. I can honestly say that Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationships
is one of the best albums to be released thus far in 2006. Arie has already won plenty of Grammy Awards in the past for her efforts, as well as having been rewarded with several gold and platinum releases. If she keeps up work of this level of quality, I see no reason why she can’t become one of the most successful mainstream artists of the new millennium. Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationships
is a fantastic album, that is sure to garner much in the ways of positive accolades. Give it a listen sometime soon.