Tunde Baiyewu - Diamond In A Rock (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
DIAMOND In A Rock marks former Lighthouse Family frontman Tunde Baiyewu’s first collection of new material in eight years. But it’s a mixed bag.
Billed as a more soulful, personal and eclectic offering than his prior work, and recorded in Portland (aka ‘the new Nashville’), the album is very much a solo project, recorded free from studio pressure, that allowed him to assimilate his lifelong love for the likes of Bill Withers with a mix of African and Western rhythms.
He also enlisted Catherine Feeny for backing vocals on several tracks, as well as guest guitarist Jon Neufeld (from The Decemberists’ offshoot Black Prairie).
The ensuing 10 tracks are all assured but some resonate more than others. Opening effort and lead single, Move, for instance, is a classy offering that combines elements of soul and pop to seamless effect.
Baiyewu’s vocals are typically assured, there’s a nice mix of instrumentals and thoughtful lyrics, and some fine supporting vocals from Catherine Feeny (who guests on several of the album’s tracks).
Blissful In No Time, for me, had echoes of Seal’s Kiss From A Rose, but is a nice mix of pop elements and stings, with a touch of guitar to lend it a soft rock vibe. It’s cinematic.
Evidence of the more intimate, personal approach is found in title track Diamond In A Rock which reflects on a time Tunde lost his halo but was brought back by the love of his life and the “sparkle in his baby’s eye”. It’s a thankful song that is surrounded by optimism and positivity.
But perhaps Tunde is better when drawing on edgier material, with Effigy a good example of the way in which he draws on African textures to embellish the instrumentals, while exploring darker subject material.
Such moments are much richer and more satisfying than more pedestrian, straight-forward piano ballads such as Awake or even the more preachy pop of We’re All In This Together (one of few more Lighthouse Family leaning material).
That said, Diamond In A Rock mostly entertains by virtue of Baiyewu’s ear for a good melody and intelligent, thoughtfully composed lyricism.
Turn The Music On is a love letter to the power of music to transform lives, and features some nice harmonies from Feeny, Fear And Fortune has a soul-blues vibe that’s endearing, and The Answer has a kind of twilight, piano-soul vibe that’s worth hearing.
Overall, it’s a nice return from him.
Download picks: Move, Blissful In No Time, Effigy, Turn The Music On