Despite two thumpingly good albums Dwele (Andwele Gardiner) remains -in the UK at least – one of soul’s best kept secrets… and sadly with this third set I can’t see things changing. ‘Sketches Of A Man’, you see, is one of a growing number of modern soul albums that peddle atmosphere and mood rather than trade on a couple of big, grab-you-by-the-balls cuts. It’s for that reason that Universal – who handle the semi-independent Koch label – have decided to offer it here on import only, but if you really care about modern soul and are mature enough to know that soul can challenge, then you’ll finds lot here to enjoy. ‘Free As A Bird’, for instance, is neat, clipped and tight and represents where nu-soul is at right now. Better is ‘Open Your Eyes’ – which is best described as a finger-clicking, beat ballad and while we’re still waiting for Maxwell, this one will do nicely – it could even get some of those “sophisticated” North West modern soul people up and stepping. ‘5 Dolla Mic’ offers interesting lyrics while ‘Body Rock’ intrigues with its techno-elemental construction. However, to get back to my original point, this collection isn’t about single cuts; rather it’s all about groove; the set’s a mood builder – generally languid, it sedately sucks you in with many of the cuts segueing into the next. There are, though, occasional surprises (like input from Slum Village on ‘Brandi’) just to keep you on your toes but generally the intention is to let the music flow. Worth investigation for those with adventurous ears – but take care with prospective purchases …the US-only CD has twenty tracks – the one prepared for import to Europe boasts a generous 22. Universal’s Import Music services can offer more details.
(BB) 3 out of 5.