Kindred the Family Soul is a 10-piece band out of Philly that makes the kind of soul music you never hear on the radio. It's not kiddy R&B or hip-hop. It's not even the standard template of neo-soul, although that is how the band has been marketed as a neo-soul act, complete with faux '70s clothing, attitudes and hair styles.
But feel free to ignore the reductive packaging. Kindred is a really good band, as it demonstrates on Surrender to Love, its debut album. The group uses rollicking electric guitar and horns to full effect on the up-tempo "Don't Wanna Suffer." "Spread the Word" centers itself by agile Djimbe drumming. And there are more than a few moments of inspired piano and flute-playing throughout the set.
Like Earth, Wind & Fire, Kindred has two vocalists who possess the chops to front such a strong band. Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon are a husband-and-wife duo. Fatin is a buttery-voiced tenor who weaves seamlessly between restraint and passion. Aja has a strong, clear alto; on the feminist anthem "I Am," she eerily channels Chaka Khan.
Although some of the lyrics are straight-up black bohemian clichés ("divinity personified," "we is a beautiful thing" yikes), the majority of lyrics are rooted in the reality of everyday. "I'm tired of broken street glass/Not gettin' no ass/Unless the baby's asleep/But even then seems like we're tryin' to creep," Fatin sings on the bitter "Far Away."
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Surrender to Love is a splendid debut, but while it is impressive, we should judge artists by their body of work, and not, as Spike Lee said recently, just by one movie, novel or album. But for now, that doesn't matter. My guess? Kindred will pump a number of good albums in the future.