O.k., o.k., so this is definitely not smooth jazz, and I may have just pushed this one through to my column with a bit of bias. However—and this is a big “however”—this is a CD that begs to be taken as a worthy exception. Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack is a tribute to one of the greatest soul vocalists to ever tackle the genre with equal amounts of grit, blues, and melody. The gentleman brave enough to don this hat in tribute is Calvin Richardson. When you hear this dedication, you’ll understand why I just had to render an opinion here.
Richardson is himself a recognizable force in soul. The native North Carolinian has built a reputation since his 1999 debut album, Country Boy, as one of the finest soul singers of his generation. Facts of Life is Richardson’s fourth effort, and it packs a decent wallop, worthy of Womack’s nod of approval.
The kind of soul vocals made famous by the likes of Womack and many of his comrades of that inimitable era that birthed soul music is so robust and gut-wrenching that I would have doubted if it would ever be duplicated again. Richardson’s efforts here clearly prove me wrong. The swaying, bluesy, gospel-filled renderings and the churning moving up-tempo vibes have always been of the one-of-a-kind variety, and it is evident that Richardson, through his mighty performance here, knows this all too well. Tunes like “Across 110th Street,” “Woman Got to Have It,” and “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha” are done with much pride, and the appearance of the charming Ann Nesby and her darling, stirring vocals on “Love Has Finally Come At Last” only add to the charm of the entire project . Richardson has a winner here. One listen, and you just might thank me for slipping in this soulster.