Dallas, you're hard to understand. It's hard to contextualize a lot of your actions. How is it that even though Erykah Badu is from these parts, you don't give much attention to R&B and soul music. Badu is perhaps the greatest R&B/soul act since the Chitlin Circuit cooked its way throughout the south all those years ago. So it would make sense for an insurmountable hunger for all things like Queen Badu to pulsate through Deep Ellum.
R&B acts, as I've come to find out, are not very good at putting their music on the internet. They don't have the urgency of rappers who release songs at a rapid and unfettered pace. Nor do they have the nonchalant verve you see in rock bands who will record music with sound quality worthy of its own season of American Horror Story.
Nevertheless, here are a few R&B acts you should be listening to and/or actively trying to see perform, with a sample of their work.
Listen to Kirk Thurmond's records and you can easily be conned into thinking what you're listening to might be the work of a mad scientist who took John Legend and John Mayer's musical DNA and mixed them into a hot cauldron. Thurmond's music is driven by his adept ability to play the acoustic guitar. As he strums, you can feel swagger strut about and paint a chromatic tableau. He sings smoothly with a confidence that contorts itself into a cocky grin. There's good reason for the self assurance: no gimmicks or flashy semaphore going on here, just good stuff.
Cassie Holt and the Lost Souls
Cassie Holt and her band the Lost Souls bring you back to the smoke-filled bars of yesteryear. You know, a spot that's a little run down, where the air conditioning does work, but only sometimes. It's worth it though, because the music's always good. With like Holt's, her powerful vocals swing through the air and hit you square in the chest like a battering ram. The Lost Souls accompany her and create a gloomy backdrop such that every surface that the notes from Cassie Holt and the Lost Souls touches turns black and white or sepia.
BeMyFiasco, government name Bianca Rodriguez, may be the closest you'll come to finding a new Badu in Dallas. She takes hip-hop's edge and places her fine vocals over production with breakbeats, bass-heavy tracks and smooth cruising snares. She's also no stranger to the neo-soul sound pioneered by Badu. BeMyFiasco's music has enough attitude and fervor to actually hold a seven-nation army back.
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Who is the Delve? What is the Delve? There's a bit of mystery here. No Facebook page. A single song on Soundcloud. But, that one song is well worth mentioning. "Lies" takes its cues from fellow recent R&B acts as mystery (looking at you, the Weeknd) and experiments with the usual constraints of the genre. The Delve effortlessly sings over deep synth production that is the audio manifestation of iTunes visualizer. Pay attention here; some good stuff is surely on its way.
The dapper gentleman Larry g(EE) scored a spot on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in late 2012. It was well earned. He's last on this list because for the past year or two, Larry g(EE) has been making a splash in this city for his energetic live shows. It's assumed that you're wholly familiar, but then we all know what happens we assume. Maybe you're new in town or when he's performed something else piqued your interest that night, be it another band or Netflix. But seeing Larry g(EE) obliterate a crowd, yourself included, with his tailored brand of soul Dallas bucket-list experience at this point.