Skinny bald-headed Tyrone Wells has a great voice. Let’s start there: dude can wail. He’s got the big three: a pastor’s-son background, a deep knowledge of soul, and what sounds like an incredible work ethic. Vocally, I’d say he’s probably closer to Adam Levine of Maroon 5 (no snickers, y’all, that dude can sing too) than Anthony Hamilton or John Legend, but they’re all kind of in the same ballpark—all heavily influenced by Al Green and the Stax stable, all equally influenced by gospel and by country, all more likely to lay back then to blow over the top.
There is a lot of laid-back soul on these 12 songs. He does sincere well on the folky “Dream Like New York”, does dreamy well on “Until You Are Here”, and does sexy pretty well on “Sugar So Sweet”—this latter song has him muttering sweet nothings like “I got news for you / When you’re walking by I almost die / I wonder if you knew / That you’re killing me slowly” over a funky backbeat before his band breaks into a psych-rock groove for the chorus. (Said band, a three-piece with him on top, is a pretty great little weapon to have handy.)
In terms of songwriting, I’m giving him a solid B minus. Some songs work really well. The opener, “What Are We Fighting For?” weds a slinky six-note riff to some pretty words that sound like dude has a social consciousness. Sure, he takes some of the best ones straight from Curtis Mayfield and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., but that’s no crime. And the gospel breakdown at the two-minute mark, with a whole chorus joining in about how we sisters and brothers have to love one another, can cause a throat-lump if you’re not careful.
“Need” is also a grabber, with its upfront declarations “I don’t love you baby / Don’t love you at all” (because he needs her, you see), and I’ll also admit a soft spot for “Jealous Man” because of its excellent opening lines: “I’ve got two things to tell you about my girl / One, leave her alone / Two, leave her alone.”
But other times he misses the mark entirely. “Looking at Her Face” is WAY too sappy, “Sea Breeze” is WAY too sappy AND is actually titled “Sea Breeze”. We also have near-misses like “Dream Like New York”. This one might be inspiring, but it doesn’t really sound like he’s ever actually been to New York; no one really runs down Broadway to catch the next train! California guys should really kind of stick with what they know. (Unless that’s the point, that he’s dreaming about it. Okay, never mind.)
Some of Wells’ other stuff is just way too derivative of Maroon 5; I call bullshit on “Baby Don’t You Change” on this score, even though it’s actually a pretty great song, and “She’s Leaving” is pretty much a straight rip of that sound too. So we’re docking him a couple of points for that.
Overall, though, we better keep an ear on this guy. He’s talented and interesting. Plus he’s bald, which means he has soul for days.
// Notes from the Road
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