Every now and again an artist will come along that demands that you sit up and take notice. Michael Kiwanuka has managed to do that and yet there is something about the familiarity of his music that fits so comfortably in your subconsciousness that you almost forget that this is, indeed, a fresh new artist here.
London born, of Ugandan parents, Michael began his musical career as a session guitarist for hip-hop artists Chipmonk and Bashy before establishing himself as a solo artist. In 2011 things started to take off for him. With the release of two EPs and supporting Adele at the iTunes Festival in London he quickly attracted interest and in January this year this talented 25 year old won the prestigious BBC Sound of 2012 award.
Michael Kiwakuna’s debut album, Home Again, is a contradiction of terms in some ways. It’s contemporary yet timeless in its familiarity. It’s like listening to an old classic but retro it’s not. The opening song Tell Me A Tale, with its flutter of flutes intro, lies somewhere between a Bill Withers classic and Traffic’s 40,000 Headmen. In fact, Kiwakuna’s mellow sound would be well suited to some of those early Steve Winwood songs.
Comparisons will undoubtedly be made between Kiwanuka and Withers. The Marvin Gaye influence is in there as well. Even Randy Newman perhaps with the touching lament I Won’t Lie. This is a really pleasant album of soulful folk that is beautiful in its simplicity with its aching strings and lush (but not too lush) arrangements.
After saying all of this though, there isn’t any particular song that completely stands out on its own. Unlike Bill Withers whose fabulous catalogue was littered with classics. This is a lovely listen, a damn fine album in fact. But it might have benefitted more from a couple of stronger tracks as opposed to the couple of fillers that I feel has been included here. Soulful and relaxing in a lazy Sunday kind of way.
Click here to listen to I Won’t Lie from Home Again: