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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mayer Hawthorne: A Strange Arrangement

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By L. Michael Gipson

There's much hoopla over Mayer Hawthorne getting signed to Stones Throw Records on the strength of two songs. From the retro-soul sound of Hawthorne's debut, the blue-eyed soulster from Detroit must have succeeded on his lyricism, because the voice just isn't there. A thin natural and blender falsetto that's part Smokey Robinson, part Curtis Mayfield and too much talent show crooner, Hawthorne mistakes vulnerability for soul. His songwriting, however, and the band's soft funk playing elevate the set. "Maybe So, Maybe No" goes from a gauzy "Wake Up Everybody" opener to a swinging, complex doo-wop extravaganza that never once sacrifices melody for band pyrotechnics. The title track is a loving massage boasting Hawthorne's best performance. These tunes are just slightly more soulful than the pop ditties that made the Rascals, the Association, and the Lovin' Spoonful '60s favorites. What's strange is how often you find yourself pressing repeat. (Stones Throw) 4 stars out of 5

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