Nat Kendall Presents: Songbird Sing
Rock Shock It! Records

Songbird Sing definitely lives up to its name—whenever Paige Rasmussen's soulful voice appears, that is. Though the release is listed under Nat Kendall's name, it should be listed under her's too, so critical is her contribution to the project (the material was co-written by her too). It's actually the second collaboration in the “Nat Kendall Presents” series, a concept predicated on the idea of combining the MC's laconic beats and rhymes with the disparate talents of other artists (the first chapter, Lovers and Ghosts, paired him with folk-rock singer Cy Ducharme). Songbird Sing serves up a dozen jams—“truest stories of the broken heartist,” in the duo's own words—in fifty minutes. Musically the style is a laid-back, often folk-inflected brand of funky pop-hop that's forceful enough to push the vocalists but stripped down enough to avoid getting in the way. Strangely enough, a distant trace of “Careless Whisper” is audible in the chord changes of “Dignified Man” but Songbird Sing's not always laid-back with “Time and Time,” “Please Hold On,” and “The Wiring” bringing a punchier gallop to the album.

Kendall's vocal abilities clearly pale next to Rasmussen's (whose soulful delivery occasionally calls to mind Joss Stone's), if the wobbly solo turn he takes on “Exactly Right Here” is a reliable indicator of his prowess. He fares better when the two sing together or when he's rapping alongside her soulful acrobatics. At those times, the combination works well, whether it's when the two alternate (“All I Got,” “Caged Bird”) or pair up (“Hello,” “Time and Time”). His droll rhymes fit the sunlit bleep and bump of “Hello” like a charm, and the buoyant rise of the chorus and Rasmussen's singing elevate the song considerably (the contrast between his drawled rhymes and her melismatic flow is one of the material's most appealing features). Signifying her central role, she appears first in the opener “All I Got,” with her voice floating easily over the song's mellow clip-hop groove, while, in contradistinction to the title, her voice soars in “Caged Bird.” How fitting it is that Rasmussen (who's, oddly, currently singing in a Vegas Cuban-American musical) is front and center for the closing “Last Words.”

September 2008