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"Testimony Vol. 1: Life & Relationships"
india.arie made quite a splash upon her arrival
on the soul scene in 2001. A refreshing
positive outlook as well as a sound that
evoked folk and blues, which was the key to
the success of her debut, "Acoustic Soul". That
album and the follow-up, 2002's "Voyage To
India", made india one of the hottest players
in the neo-soul movement, earning her a pair
of Platinum albums and a pair of Grammys
in the process.

3 1/2 years after "Voyage", India returns with her third album,
"Testimony Vol. 1: Life & Relationship", the first in a two-part series
(with the second volume due next year). Wisely, India mainly sticks to
the script that made her famous: positive, uplifting songs that soothe
the spirit, topped up by her rich vocals. She stretches out her sound
slightly on this release,  with some songs using more contemporary
R&B arrangements, as well as some songs that dip a toe in genres
ranging from jazz to coountry.

There are many highlights on this wildly satisfying album. "Good
Morning" is a soothing slow song that India bases on a simple,
mellow guitar part. The lyrics slowly turn negative situations into
positive ones, a guideline on which India bases most of her work.
"Private Party" is another winning track, this one celebrating India's
womanhood and interpolating a bit of Stevie Wonder's "Happy
Birthday" for good measure.

Even when walking hand in hand with commercial prospects, like on
the Akon-assisted single "I Am Not My Hair", India manages to create
good music...and Akon gives the best performance he has given so
far. She balances radio-ready pursuits like this with tracks like the
country-flavored "Summer" (which features background vocals by
country superstars Rascal Flatts) and a stunning cover of Don
Henley's "The Heart of the Matter", one of the best written pop/rock
songs of the 1980's.

In a time when so much music dwells on the negative, it's refreshing
that someone like india, even for all of her accolades and success,
doesn't change her positive outlook. Without being explicitly religious
or seeming like she's preaching, india has created a feel-good album
whose positivity doesn't take away from her incredible musicianship.
The only question you'll have after listening to india's "Vol. 1" is
"When is Vol. 2 coming out?"                   ~Michael Heyliger~

Music samples and more information about India.Arie available