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Ayiesha Woods grew up in New York, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Texas, and Bermuda, so it’s no surprise there’s much diversity in her music. A recognized talent in the Caribbean scene, the 26-year-old’s indie debut was played on Jamaican radio, where Gotee Records founder tobyMac caught her sound. It impressed him enough to personally seek her out, and he’s now Introducing Ayiesha Woods to the world with her national debut.

Ironically, Introducing fumbles its introduction with the first two tracks; “Happy” and “The Remedy” resemble contemporary pop/rock more befitting of Joy Williams or Kelly Clarkson than someone hyped for soulful eclecticism. Perhaps they still play a part in her sonic diversity, but this is the rare album that gets better as it goes, spreading artistic wings with hints of reggae (“Big Enough”) and neo-soul (“Get to You”) before finally turning a corner with “Crazy,” a superbly produced piece of stompin’ Caribbean dancehall about accepting God’s Word literally. Things only improve from there, offering a smorgasbord of soulful balladry (“What You Do to Me”), gospel R&B (“The Greatest Artist”), majestic pop (“What Matters Most”), smooth funk rock (“Beauty”), and the delightfully retro Stevie Wonder-styled groove of “I Don’t Mind.”

Much like Nicole C. Mullen on her debut, Woods comfortably works these styles together with confidence and versatility while clearly expressing her faith. It’s an absolute blast, helped greatly by first-rate production from Chris Stevens (Shawn McDonald), Otto Price (Out of Eden, BarlowGirl), Ric Robbins (GRITS), and David Mullen (Nicole’s husband), but Woods impresses with her own talents as a singer (a silky soulful rasp that recalls India Arie, Lisa McClendon, and Lauryn Hill), songwriter (composing most of the tracks herself), and pianist (with some jazzy flourishes that naturally bring Alicia Keys to mind). It’s a contagiously energetic start from a fresh talent worth discovering and keeping tabs on for years to come.

Edited by Smellicad on 13 Aug 2008, 14:06

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