At first or second listen, this sounds unnervingly like a solo album that Ray Davies might have made circa the early 1970s. There's that same witty melodicism, and a similar resigned yet bemused air to Suggs' vocal delivery. It manages, though, not to sound like an inferior rewrite of Kinks cliches, and upon closer inspection, reveals Suggs to be more his own man than might initially be suspected. Suggs favors far more abstract lyrics, for one thing, imbued with rather creepy images of vultures, skeletons, and dreamy disorientation. In addition, the music is more speckled with Americana than what Davies and the Kinks played, as heard on the enchanting minor-keyed mandolin strums and desert guide slide that anchor "The Rambler Vs. the Vulture/Devils Dance," managing to strike a mood between Appalachia and Tex-Mex balladry. Like few other ambitious musicians, singer-songwriter-identified and otherwise, working in indie rock circa 2000, Suggs knows how to use understatement instead of trying too hard or opting for an in-your-face approach.
As part of Blue Note's 60th anniversary gala, Benny Green was invited to record a selection of his favorite tunes from the label's venerable catalog. Green picked eight songs previously recorded by the likes of Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Joe Henderson, and Dexter Gordon, then he recruited bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone. Together, they recorded These Are Soulful Days, a splendid tribute to the glory days of Blue Note, when excellent hard bop musicians ruled the roster. Like the classic albums from the late '50s and early '60s, These Are Soulful Days clocks in at an economical 45 minutes and feels intimate. All eight songs were recorded directly to two-track, giving the music an immediate, vibrant feel.