For the past week, Sarayah’s Feel the Vibe has been throbbing in the lab (aka my ’93 Ford Ranger’s cab). Nicole spotted the album in Louisiana Music Factory, NOLA’s stellar Frenchman Street store, checked it out at the listening station, and placed it on my already-towering stack. The young lady is a product of the Crescent City, with Caribbean roots that blend beautifully with that status, and while she doesn’t quite live up to Basin Street Records’ promotional claim that she weds Rihanna, Ariana Grande, and Kehlani (each of whom are backed by big bucks and state of the art writers and producers), I prefer her to all of the above except Ri, and even then I prefer her half the time. Why? I am no aficionado of club music or modern r&b, but I sense in the tracks and lyrics of Feel the Vibe that they might be a shade generic or corny. However, there is a sweetness and innocence to her commitment to the material, to her belief in herself, to the humility of her offering that’s irresistible. Trappings are few: her island-tinged delivery and exotic presentation on the album cover are about it. Otherwise, she’s naked, especially so without the bells and whistles of a zeitgeistian roll call of beat-finders and knob-twiddlers, and as a result I feel I’m getting a direct and sincere shot from the kid. I don’t club much at 56 in mid-Missouri, but I can easily picture Nicole and I getting the backs of our shirts wet to tracks like “Blaze It Up” and “Start to Finish”–and she can nail a slow one, too, as she proves on “Fire and Ice.” Late in the album, she takes New Orleans music back to its roots on “We Party,” perhaps the track that most suggests her potential. Saràyah: give her a shot. I hope we get to see her live one day.
A morning spent with the greatest country-soul singer of them all is a morning fully redeemed.