Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again (2012)

Michael Kiwanuka is a British born singer-songwriter with Ugandan heritage, and with the release of his debut album Home Again has seen him being compared to Bill Withers, Otis Redding and Van Morrison. One can certainly identify with such comparisons when listening to the album, which contains a mixture of soul jazz, acoustic folk, and blues. Musically speaking the album has a gentle simplicity about it with Kiwanuka’s guitar playing taking centre stage backed by jazzy and soulful arrangements reminiscent of Nick Drake’s album Bryter Layter, and features sporadic appearances by the flute, strings, piano, and horns. The definite quality in Kiwanuka’s music is his soothing vocals and delicate guitar playing, with everything else really only playing a supporting role. The wonderful production on the album allows the texture in the songs to come to the surface and in turn creates an airiness to Kiwanuka’s vocals making them standout above everything else on the record. The quality of his vocal delivery in combination with what is often quite gentle like guitar playing ensures that you can’t help but feel totally calm and relaxed when listening.  Key tracks on the album include the Van Morrison esc “Tell Me a Tale” with its jazzy beat and “Moondance” like swagger, the smooth blues of “Rest”, and the acoustic soul of “Home Again”. The quality on display right across the album ensures that even the slightly less memorable tracks still sound good and are not skippable by any stretch. I guess one of the main appeals of Kiwanuka is that his style isn’t set in stone with his music more like a hybrid of styles in the form of a gorgeous “soulful jazzy acoustic” nature. The variation in style across the album from track to track including splashes of soul, jazz, blues, folk, and even swinger (if such a styles exists) ensures that there is enough going on here musically to enchant the listener and keep their attention, while prevents the album from falling into the trap of being a nice enough soul album but pretty samey. Home Again is a solid first up effort from Kiwanuka, in a music environment where people stand up and take notice of you if you go against the pop/R&B grain and attempt to distinguish yourself from other acts around you. I feel Kiwanuka has done that nicely here to a certain extent, and definitely has the potential to expand on this first offering next time round. I for one will be keeping my ears open and at the ready for what he does next.
– Sam

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