AVERY* SUNSHINE: Twenty Six Four (Shanachie)

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Though she’d never complain Avery* Sunshine’s been a busy girl. Denise Nicole White (for that’s her given name) won loads and loads of fiends with her second LP, ‘The Sunroom’. Cleverly chosen singles and remixes kept the album alive and from then on it was regular touring and media appearances. They came alongside award nominations and work with people like Gregory Porter, Babyface, Will Downing, Patti Labelle, Aretha, Smokey and Boy George. We will, though, pass on him! Oh we almost forgot, Little Miss Sunshine also got herself married. She finally tied the knot with long time musical collaborator Dana “Big Dane” Johnson and much of the music on ‘Twenty Four Six’ reflects the couple’s new loved up state (not that we’re suggesting, that they weren’t a couple previously).

Those who enjoy unashamed romantic soul will find plenty to please them here. Try ‘Everything I Got’ for starters. It’s quite lovely and is enhanced by some fine muted brass figures. ‘Heaven Is Right Here With Me’ is out of the same romantic stable, This features a gentleman I’m not that familiar with… Mr Talkbox (he, of course, offers talk boxing). Another album guest is Frank McComb who offers his typically Hathaway-esque Rhodes on ‘Kiss And Make It Better’. Then of course there’s the title track… over six minutes of mutual love that even features archive recording of the wedding ceremony . How cheesy you consider the complex sand allegory (“The different colours sand is showing that we’re bringing all of these family members together, right? And once joined the bits of sand begin to settle and to mix and you can’t take them apart…..this is the eternity of a family.”) depends, I guess, on your own romantic inclinations. If you want more of the Johnson nuptials, the pair even include their wedding song, ‘The Ice Cream Song’. Avery wrote it especially for the wedding and is there anything more romantic than declaring “I’d give up ice cream for you“? What saves songs like this descending into sentimentality are the wonderful soul arrangements (classic AND contemporary) and Avery’s true soul, committed voice. She is gospel trained, of course, but you would guess that wouldn’t you?. Throughout, hear shades of Jill Scott, Angela Johnson, Deniece Williams even Alicia Keys – but singularly hear Avery Sunshine.

If you want something a touch tougher than the ballads you may want to try ‘Used Car’. With clever lyrics and neo Motown rhythms, it will bring a smile to your face. But in fairness this is an album for those quiet storm moments. There is one oddity, though – ‘Prayer Room’ . With pedal steel and acoustic guitar, there’s a definite country feel to the song that makes it hard to pigeon hole.

I’ve read that Avery Sunshine describes herself as a cross between Oprah Winfrey and Bette Midler. It may sound odd, but you know, listen long and hard to ‘Twenty Six Four’ and you’ll start to understand… empowerment, encouragement, empathy, enjoyment, entertainment; all here… and, oh, have we mentioned romance?

(BB) 4/5