A year after releasing her debut CD, Closer, Oakland's Goapele Mohlabane has established herself as one of the region's most promising young artists. Upon that album's release, a national buzz began to circulate around the singer/songwriter, and though the original version of Closer was limited to a 3,000-disc run, she was one of the few Bay Area artists to receive significant airplay on KMEL.
Her "new" CD, Even Closer, fleshes out her earlier release with five previously unreleased songs, extending the album to a weighty fourteen tracks. The added tunes, which feature guest appearances from Pep Love, Casual, and Zion-I, contain all the elements that made Goapele's initial offering such a pleasant surprise: Sensual yet intelligent lyrics, an innate musical sensibility as comfortable with torchy jazz as blazing R&B and urban hip-hop, and honest-to-God vocal chops. She's more than adept at the soul singer's stock-in-trade, the romantic ballad, but she can also deliver a rousing uptempo throwdown with plenty of bump-ability.
She takes on more serious topics as well, dealing with community and personal issues on anthems like "It Takes More" and "Childhood Drama." She even addresses America's post-9/11 mood on "Red, White, and Blues," a poignant new song that closes the album. "The news turned sorrow to fear to anger," she sings, cautioning that despite the current media-saturated climate, "there's still no conclusion/'cause so many die everywhere, everyday."
Look no further than the front cover of the new CD to see just how far Goapele has progressed in a relatively short time. On the first she was packaged as a shy ingenue, now the singer brims with a diva-esque confidence, like a caterpillar who has just discovered she's become a butterfly.
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