We were first introduced to new soulstress DEVA MAHAL at the back end of last year when she released an intriguing three track EP – ‘Run Deep’.
Research revealed that Ms Mahal had a wonderful musical pedigree. She’s the daughter of legendary blues man Taj Mahal and Inshirah Mahal, an influential dancer, artist and educator. Mentored by Maxwell’s former manager, Deva broke out in 2008, when ‘Never Let You Go’ co-written with her father, gained acclaim on the Grammy-nominated album ‘Maestro’. She’s also collaborated with a wide-ranging array of artists, including Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Fat Freddy’s Drop. She’s performed at such renowned festivals as Sonar, Womad, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival and Montreux Jazz Festival.
The lady’s profile is now set to soar as she releases a full album…. a 12 tracker called, like the previous EP, ‘Run Deep’ and, oddly – some may think – featuring the three cuts from that EP. Of those the most interesting is Deva’s cover of the Goffin/King song ‘Take A Giant Step’. The song was originally recorded way back by the Rising Suns but is perhaps better know in the version by Deva’s dad, Taj. The daughter has recorded it as a tribute to both Carole King (one of her cited musical heroes) and her father. If you know the song, you’ll know it’s a mystical ramble encourages to “Take a giant step outside your mind”.
And that, gives us the flavour of the whole album. ‘Run Deep’ is a soulful album, but not “traditional” soul. Indeed put it up in i-tunes and it’s classed as “alternative”. That “conflict” (if that’s the right word) can be heard in the catchy ‘Snakes’ – a danceable, old school soul rumble but with deep lyrics. Deva describes it as a “warning letter to her younger self and a reminder to hold on to your inner light”.
There’s depth too on the album’s best ballad’ ‘Shards’. This one’s about broken hearts and the shards that remain…. each shard, Deva opines, has someone’s name on it. It’s a powerful song matched by the performance. And there’s plenty more power, passion, intrigue, questioning and emotion throughout the whole of ‘Run Deep’ (an apposite title) which is out now on Motema Music.
By the way Deva insists that “Deva” is pronounced “diva” – prophetic or what?