A polished crooner emerges
By Christopher Kompanek
Friday, February 8, 2013
It has been more than a decade since Cody Chesnutt’s ambitious debut double album, “The Headphone Masterpiece.” Recorded in his basement and influenced by both hip-hop and ’60s and ’70s soul, the album caught the attention of the Roots, who cut a version of “Seed,” giving the singer his first hit. The intervening years have helped Chesnutt focus his sound, and with his new album, “Landing on a Hundred,” he has emerged as the heir apparent to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
The 12 tracks are as polished as the three dozen on “Headphone Masterpiece” were raw. The bebop-infused trumpet arrangements amplify the haunting ballad “Don’t Follow Me,” and “Everybody’s Brother” frames a lament of misspent youth in a catchy B3 organ-tinged riff. Chesnutt’s crooning on “Love Is More Than a Wedding Day” makes all the Gaye comparisons snap into focus, but the album satisfies those expectations as much as subverts them. “The Spell of the Handout” has brassy swing elements, while the genre melting pot “Where Is All the Money Going” gleefully defies categorization.
Above all, “Landing on a Hundred” is a feel-good album in the best possible sense. It channels Chesnutt’s passion into tightly constructed riffs, layers them with deeply felt improvisations and tops them with smooth, smooth crooning.