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SHE AIN'T HEAVY

SHE'S THE BRAND NEW HEAVIES' N'DEA DAVENPORT, A SOUL SONGSTRESS FOR THE NINETIES.

Bartholomew, Kincaid and Levy had been gigging around London since the mid-Eighties, gaining some notoriety from their first single, "Got to Give," issued in 1987. The act's self-titled debut album was released by the Acid Jazz label in 1990 and sported lead vocals by Jaye Ella Ruth. The recording was less than a hit, but Delicious Vinyl saw promise; the company inked the Heavies sans Ruth. The band subsequently rerecorded a number of songs from its previous disc with Davenport. One track, "Dream Come True," later became a smash in Britain, while a second, "Never Stop," charted in America.

In spite of this success, Davenport was not made a permanent member of the Heavies at that time. Instead, the group recorded Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol. 1, a hip-hop platter featuring guest raps from Main Source, Gang Starr, Grand Puba, Masta Ace and members of the Pharcyde. Unfortunately, the album seemed more than a little stiff, and it painted the Heavies as musical dilettantes. The missing ingredient, clearly, was Davenport. She had not spent her time idling: She co-wrote and co-produced "Trust Me" and "When You're Near," a pair of strong tracks on Jazzmatazz, an ambitious album made by Gang Starr leader Guru. But when the Heavies called, she answered--and it's a lucky thing she did. Brother Sister is far and away the Heavies' best album, thanks in large part to Davenport's enlarged role. The disc is no soul classic, but it's a danceable groovefest that flows effortlessly from beginning to end.

Davenport realizes that the new disc marks the first time her talents have been effectively showcased. "I feel that I have so much more to contribute--so much more that nobody's even scratched the surface of knowing what I'm capable of," she says. "The closest I've gotten so far, I think, is the song `Brother Sister,' because I feel so close to it lyrically. It's a representation of what my parents instilled in me, kind of an anthem to kids who might be a little discouraged about life. It's telling them that even if you don't have anybody out there who's backing you up, you should make an effort and try. You might be surprised by the results. I'm a witness to that."

Whether or not songs like this succeed in raising her to full-fledged divahood, Davenport feels that the Brand New Heavies already are performing a valuable function simply by reminding Americans about their own traditions. "I'm a product of America, but at the same time, I had to get very popular in England before I got noticed in America," she notes. "People here and in Europe really appreciate the music that America has just kind of tossed aside--the traditional soul music and so forth. They study it and really give it the praise that it deserves. I just hope that starts to happen back home."

The Brand New Heavies. 8 p.m. Wednesday, August 17, Fox Theatre, 1135 13th Street, Boulder, $15.75 in advance/$17.80 day of show, 290-

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