But A Woman
Record Review by A. Scott Galloway
When was the last time you purchased a CD – with 15 songs/no interludes no less – and dug it enough to let it play through without skipping one tune? L.A. based singer/songwriter Wil Key has delivered such a worthy disc thanks to the thoughtful, sensitive and sensual nature of his lyrics, the quality and sheen of the independent production, and a striking balance between live instrumentation (rhythm, horns and support vocals) and tastefully synthesized tracks. Vocally, Key gives utmost respect to his compositions, forgoing excessive riffing to deliver his lyrics with soulful sincerity that is as warm and endearing as it is tasteful and impressive. If you love Maxwell and Eric Bene’t, you will be feelin’ this brother who rolls with a slightly jazzier flow akin to Will Downing.
Titled But a Woman and graced with a lovely cover model (a contest winner) serving the eye graceful nude portraiture, the album’s packaging perfectly sets the tone for the music inside. This is a collection of songs that places women of many stripes on pedestals of adoration and fascination.
The “live” feel of the arrangements and instruments is reflected right away with the extended introduction of the opener “Can You Feel It,” a gently inspirational message for all about having hope against hope on which Key takes a full minute and a half to come in with the first verse. That’s called a warm welcome. From there, its love songs in every shade…one with spoken word, another with tasteful rap, and many with jazzy backing but all invested with compassion and care.
The funky horns-fortified “Naked” finds him instructing his lady to take off all the designer fashions and frilly lingerie so they can get skin to skin. “Beautiful,” with a groove interpolated from Jeff Lorber’s and Kool & The Gang’s play books, is a vivid description of his woman’s inner and outer beauty. The delicate piano ballad “Butterfly” is an ode to a friend’s lil’ daughter while “Love Like Mama” speaks of the unimpeachable love of his mother (fine trumpet solo here by Will Artope). Key drops down into the slow-bumpin’ guitar groove of “Fight Thru” about sticking through the rough patches of a relationship that he sings in a tight duet with Betsy Rucker. That rolls into the techno night groove of “If You Stay” and the moonlight parked-car seduction “Yeah.” And, dig it, that’s just the first half.
Round 2 kicks off with more danceable inspiration in “Rising of a Star” and the Isleys-esque synth-bells-kissed “”Don’t Know What You Got” (the traveling musician’s love-in-the-moment mantra). The album’s instant classic is “Miss America,” jazzy piano over a hip syncopated beat buoying a powerful reminder to women about just how powerful they are to the world of men. Time for a little backbeat blues rock thanks to the organ and guitar boiler “Ain’t Been Here Long” (a story song about how one of those Miss America’s rocked him off his moral compass) followed by the acoustic introspection of “Mother Earth” and the sunny percussive “All She Wanted.” The album comes to a close with the electric piano drenched title track, an intimate parting reflection about how a good woman wraps your world in love. And all of the harmonized, ad lib and lead voices you hear on this one, as well as all of the instruments, were played by Key.
File Wil Key’s About A Woman (the artist’s third project following 2001’s Gypsy and 2009’s Satisfy My Soul) under among the most impressive albums of 2012.
A. Scott Galloway
The Urban Music Scene