After a bumpy start to his pop career, mostly involving the cumbersome process of making music in a major label sausage factory, the singer/songwriter Abiah (formerly Jeremiah Abiah) has crafted a sophomore album of emotive ballads, an audacious idea for a relative newcomer. But with delicacy and warmth, Abiah makes it work. To cement his vision Abiah adds pianist Robert Glasper, guitarist Marvin Sewell (Cassandra Wilson) and the accomplished drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. who co-produces as well. Having jazz musicians on board adds class to the project, but Abiah’s voice and music is the star.
The singer toggles tone and tempo for “Doves,” a ravishing version of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” that’s sure to get some attention partly for its familiarity, but mostly it should be measured for Abiah’s capacity to reset this classic in a novel and sure fire way. The emotional drive of a song like “September” better exemplifies the strength of this artist. With a rounded-edged voice that suggests a more vulnerable Seal, Abiah’s experience singing backup for George Michael and Yolanda Adams signifies a willingness to lay his emotions out there. “Foolish Heart” is among the first three tracks, any of which would be strong singles and worthy of airplay. Concise and happily free of filler, “Life As A Ballad” (Madoh Music) makes room for one up-tempo track, “Next Time Around,” a song with a carefree gait that trades break up misery for the discovery of self-worth and forgiveness. The final allusion one might associate with Abiah would be the vocalist Lizz Wright since they both share honesty in the stories they tell, their musical palette and in the beautiful words they sing. (9 tracks; 37:37 minutes) www.abiahmusic.com