Music and love are fickle things. With the November 26 release of their new album, The Tears, Twin Cities soul singer g’Beau and his eponymous band attempt to tame both with an expanded and expansive backing band and tracks probing the spaces between people.
G’Beau (pronounced “je-bo”), self-bill as “SoulPop” and fit comfortably in the neo-soul movement, which has flagged a bit in recent years, though that doesn’t count against this album, which has some exciting cuts. They’re musicians well versed in a genre that ranges from soft ripples on an acoustic guitar to the sharp punches of a six-person brass section, fronted by a smooth voice at home in falsetto.
Of the ten tracks, three are the work of others: “If I Fell” by the Beatles, “Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel, and the Sidney Wyche composition, “A Woman, A Lover, A Friend,” which has been previously recorded by the likes of Jackie Wilson and Otis Redding.
All three are excellent examples of g’Beau’s ability to produce new, compelling arrangements of classics. While “WomanLoverFriend” is a slow-building soul tune, “If I Fell” gets an emotional gospel makeover and Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” features a rhythm section doing a mean impression of Weather Report’s Heavy Weather.
g’Beau — “WomanLoverFriend”
While the songs are familiar, g’Beau has made them new and all deserve repeated listens, because they are timeless songs skillfully reimagined and executed. However, doubtless g’Beau’s primary concern is how the seven originals on The Tears fair a close listen.
Well, there is some exciting stuff. In particular, “The Rock” featuring rapper Ce Lafreq, is a banger, a party jam. In it, g’Beau is defiant against “false allegations” and the “haters all around” over funky, flanged guitar and a popping, sliding bass that rumbles along on the B string, keeping the song chugging forward. “The Rock” is exciting because, like the arrangements of the three covers, it stretches both The Tears and soul music.
In contrast, “Private Place” pulls back the instrumentation in favor of a g’Beau’s voice, who is supported by Kenecia Cade. While it doesn’t go full duet, the song matches well the style of vocals and supporting instrumentation. At times on The Tears, the massive supporting cast can overwhelm singer g’Beau, which can come across as overshadowing or overly enthusiastic. It certainly happens in the title track “The Tears” as the song rises to what should be its climax. As if misplaced from “The Tears,” in “Private Place” are moments where voices really stretch beyond their comfortable places—something I wanted more of, given the album’s intention to address emotional spaces.
Other concerns of mine relate to the gulf between the covers and the original material. The covers are really good–both fresh and captivating–and unfortunately highlight missteps in the original material, even the stronger tracks, ranging from crowded instrumentation in “The Rock” to occasionally bland or clumsy lyrics in “The Tears” or “Taboo.”
The Tears is a sliding scale based on a listener’s predisposed tastes. For neo-soul fans, particularly those who want to support local artists, The Tears will be an album to return to. Others might not find it the best entry point into a rich genre, which has had other recent artists consistently putting to wax inspired music pulling from the classics as much as it innovates.
There is a release party for The Tears downtown on December 12 at The Pourhouse. The show will start at 8pm, be hosted by Ce Lafreq, and feature Ladyboi, Scarlett Haze, and Ryan Liestman.