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E.B. Williams
Simply Because

Just when you think you've got the "nureau" thing figured out, MSS throws you a curve ball. On Simply Because, the latest in a string of strong, eclectic offerings from this San Diego house of originators, you get something off the beaten track, yet with a ring of familiarity to it. Headlining the project is E.B. Williams (pronounced 'mom').

Simply Because CDThat's right, this artist is the mother of nureau pioneers, Tonéx (aka T.Boy) and Levi Wheeler (aka 5'o).

The problem here is, how can this be described? Is it a case of 'Mavis Staples' vocal sounds meets T.Boy? Maybe. It's certainly got elements of old school classic soul vocals. And you know with T.Boy at the reigns, it's welded to blazing production and occasionally sunk deep into a funky beat wilderness.

The opening song, "E.B.'s Theme" begins with some frighteningly-cheesy keyboard (Casio?) bars before it reassuringly explodes into a firestorm of phat guitar and bass chords with claps that lead into Williams' praise focus —"I've come to praise". The ultra-produced staccato effects sampled from her voice later in the track make for some intriguing effects.

Williams' seasoned and soft-rasp pipes brings back recollections of classic soul throughout this project, and it takes a good listen or two to get back into that vibe, particularly with the modern production that T.Boy wraps around it. Stylistically, there's lots to choose from, including slow ballads ("The Best Thing"), millenial-style contemporary ("Do You Know Hymn?") and straight up Gospel ("Movin' On").

The folk-soul sleeper here is "Banjo", a wonderfully motherly concern by Williams to her children. With a subtle sample from The Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There", you're practically waiting for Pop Staples to make a cameo.

Also hit-bound is the neo-traditional "Windows", which is based on the familiar one-two church beat. Swirling organ emphasizesE.B. Williams that "He's opening that window", and backing vocals from Tonéx and Zsa Zsa quickly pull that chorus from the background to front and center.

The only non-T.Boy writing and production on the project is on "Is There One?", which comes courtesy of Greg McKinney (who also produced on the Tina Wilson project —see review). Following spoken word intro over soft whoaing backing vocals, Williams presents a gently-rolling melody over strong organ, piano and bass, offering Jesus as the answer to all life's questions. The cut moves to a masterful building guitar climax with increasingly forceful vocals.

Don't be surprised if Simply Because takes you more than a couple listens to get into. By the third or fourth spin, you'll get the hang of what's going on here.


Producers: T.Boy, Greg McKinney
album release date: August 28, 2000
MSS Records


reviewed by Stan North



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