Les Nubians

After a long couple of months' worth of freedom fries, freedom toast and supremely disappointing freedom kissing, we quarrelsome Americans finally get an overdue helping of genuine, uncut Frenchitude, in the form of a visit by Paris-based sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart, the presumably peace-loving ladies of Les Nubians and worldbeat's most photogenic purveyors of the open-eared R&B slow-burn. One Step Forward, the Nubians' follow-up to 1998's celebrated Princesses Nubiennes, isn't quite. It's mostly composed of the same under-covers tempos, tasteful fusion playing, pretty harmony singing and deep-pile production that first brought the Faussarts to worldwide attention, though there's evidence of the sisters' intermediate intergeneric dabbling if you care to listen for it: the juicy reggae throb of the Morgan Heritage-featuring "Brothers & Sisters," the title track's sly broken-beat contours, Talib Kweli's cameo in the bouncy "Temperature Rising." Sadly, there's none of the raw emotional sting that makes sonic peer Sade's best work, like the devastating "By Your Side," resonate beyond dinner-party ambiance or feel-good NPR fare. (Or maybe that's just my Bushwhacked ass denigrating the French language again.) But you probably won't find a more efficient way to right international relations Tuesday than with these well-meaning women.


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