Music

Lalah Hathaway: Outrun the Sky

Mark Anthony Neal

Lalah Hathaway

Outrun the Sky

Label: Blue Moon
US Release Date: 2004-09-28
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Audiences can perhaps be forgiven for forgetting about Lalah Hathaway -- her last full length recording was 1994's A Moment -- but her surname demands that we never forget her entirely. As the progeny of a regal soul man, Hathaway has carved out a niche for herself, singing not the music of her genre-bounding father, but the music that matters most to her. Hathaway and blue-smoke vocals return with Outrun the Sky, her first recording for the Mesa/Bluemoon label -- that same label that once made Randy Crawford relevant again with 1995's Cajun Moon.

Lalah Hathaway's self-titled 1990 debut, a mix of R&B and pop-jazz, found a place amidst the dominant new jack grooves of the era. Hathaway's sound on tracks like "Somethin'" and "Sentimental" was assured and mature -- a maturity that her label thought betrayed the reality that she was the same age as many of the folk who were recording the anthems of the "New Jack" era. A Moment, Hathaway's follow-up, was a deliberate attempt to make Hathaway's music more attractive to the so-called hip-hop generation. For the most part, the gambit failed, though Hathaway continued to have a loyal following -- folks who appreciated her cameo appearances on recordings by Meshell NdegeOcello, Wayman Tisdale, and Take 6 (Hathaway joined the group on a rendition of her father's "Someday We'll Be Free"). Hathaway returned to public consciousness five years ago when she collaborated with jazz legend, and original Jazz Crusader, Joe Sample, with their widely acclaimed The Song Lives On. The collaboration produced the track "When Your Life Was Low", which Hathaway now refers to as her "signature" tune.

It is in the spirit of The Song Lives On that Hathaway's latest, Outrun the Sky, finds its place. There are obvious attempts to garner some support from urban radio, like the Mike City-produced tracks "Your Favorite Song" and "Better and Better", but Hathaway's strength throughout her career has been the ballad. No longer feeling the need to compete with some of her R&B peers, Hathaway makes the transition here to song stylist -- think Nancy Wilson -- adding a level of depth by writing many of the project's songs.

Many of the tracks on Outrun the Sky are autobiographical. The title track, for example, was written during a particularly bumpy flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, where Hathaway dreamed out loud about surviving the flight and making good on all the goals she'd set for herself. Some of the songs were inspired by a sense of romantic loss that she shared with some of her friends. Among those songs, the gritty anthem "Admit It" is the clear standout as Hathaway laments the "silly shit men do". The show-stopping "We Were Two", which clocks in at more than eight minutes, is another gem, displaying, among other things, Hathaway's skill at improvisation -- sis is straight testifyin' over the final minutes of the song, even channeling her father ("that's alright"). And then there's "Boston" (Hathaway graduated from the Berklee School of Music), where the city becomes a metaphor for the kind of personal growth that feelings of loss often inspire.

In a touching and all too fleeting frame during the video for Luther Vandross's "Dance with My Father", Hathaway appears with Nona Gaye holding pictures of their respective fathers. A year later, Hathaway was tapped to appear on Forever, for Always, for Luther, a smooth-jazz tribute recording produced by Rex Rideout. Hathaway's contribution, a stunning rendition of Vandross's "Forever, for Always, for Love", is included on Outrun the Sky.

These days, its easy to lament the lack of younger vocalists who posses the kind of versatility and attention to craft that marks the music of Nancy Wilson, Teena Marie, or Chaka Khan in her prime. Though Mary J. Blige may eventually mature into such a role, Lalah Hathaway may already be there -- Outrun the Sky is proof.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.