HEIDI MARTIN / “Wanna Be”
A deep enigma reveling in vulnerable openness. Singing some very, very personal experiences and emotions. You can almost see her heart pulsing. There is almost nothing here but voice and the barest cushion of music.
I went to her website and Googled for bio info but only came up with general statements. Brought up in DC. Studied with Grady Tate. Plays the DC area. But no real specifics. Not even a birth date. Nor any real insight about her career experiences other than she played some clubs, sang in church.
In this case, the absence of personal bio is intriguing precisely because there is obviously a lot more than meets the ear, than meets the eye. In fact, depending on your references, she hardly sounds like she looks, or looks like she sounds.
In her voice one hears a young someone laying it all bare for the world to stare at and pick over, or like Heidi perceptively says, if you’re telling the truth one word is worth a thousand pictures.
Heidi? What a name for a soul singer.
People who have written about her cite a bunch of influences, cite a plethora of folk she sounds like. I’ve yet to read the one she most calls to my mind. Another youngsome, serious singer who came up out of DC, mixing jazz and soul with heartfelt stories and critical consciousness. Heidi doesn’t look anything like Roberta but stylistically she sure is very, very close to Ms. Flack, especially Roberta’s first couple of albums.
But Roberta is only a reference. Heidi is very much her own self and I’m responding to that sense of self on display even though I can’t tell you much about the specifics of that self.
What is very, very clear to me is that Heidi has thought deeply about the her self-identity and about her identification with black folk. She speaks and sounds from the inside, regardless of what she looks like (and, of course, we are wise enough to know that not only can looks be deceiving, but beyond deception, race is itself is no absolute indicator of culture and consciousness).
Heidi’s music is deeply grounded in the black experience. It’s anchored bone deep, so she doesn’t have to rely on showing her ass and singing booty songs to prove that she’s a sister.
I also really, really like her phrasing and how she uses the sound of her voice to augment the songs. Sometimes it’s not the words but the little moans, hums, croons and occasional hollers that uplift these songs to something you find yourself wanting to hear again. And again.
As a professional writer, I’m also attracted to the poetry of her lyrics. The casual way she is intelligent. Plus, she is has a gift for catchy melodies to go with her crafty wordsmithing. If Heidi stays with it, she may even become a great songwriter.
And finally, there is the great conundrum: how to make it without going corporate? How to get over at a time when the major record companies are going under? Even after coming across Heidi while trolling, it took me a minute to get ahold of her music. She has another album (I think it is an earlier album, it’s mostly covers) but I was interested in this one because she wrote all of the material. An acoustic album with sparse production in an electronic era when heavy production is de rigueur.
The range of her music is also another attraction for me. “Wanna Be” is in the romantic mold with enough of twist so that it moves way beyond moon/june. On the other hand, “Why Do I? Hide” is the kind of song one no longer hears on mainstream soul radio. Then there’s the social commentary of “Mayflower” juxtaposed with the personal histography of “My Father Left Us For The Moon.” Or listen to Heidi surveying the contemporary territory with songs like “ISM” and “Your Life.”
This is the kind of music that really deserves broad exposure and wide support. I hear people all the time talking about the absence of serious music, well, here’s some serious music. Support Heidi Martin. Check Heidi’s website. Order her music.
I’m hoping for more from Heidi Martin. More music. More info. But even if this is all we get, it’s a good getting.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
If you dig it, buy it
I'm digging this a lot. I can't say I hear any Roberta Flack in it though. Roberta's early music (remember "Suzanne" just a couple weeks ago?) had much more in the way of held notes combined with that really deliberate, almost lament-like style. Heidi's phrasing is much more wandering and lilting. The first track I heard was "ISM," and listening to it, I was immediately reminded of Joni Mitchell. It was something in the free-flowing style of the vocals and the way the words seem almost improvised rather than written. I'm also hearing some Navasha Daya in there. Heidi's a good singer.
Right now, I'm listening to "Mayflower" and I'm hearing all kinds of beautiful soul singers in her sound. Heidi's good. Very good. I'm four songs in and haven't heard a bad song yet. This young lady has a great voice, an intriguing style and talent to burn. Like you were saying though, God only knows where she's going go to find airplay. Hey y'all, like Kalamu said, if you dig it, buy it. I'm about to.
—Mtume ya Salaam
P.S. I'm listening to "My Father Left Us For The Moon" and I'm finally hearing a little of that Roberta Flack influence Kalamu was talking about.
This entry was posted on Sunday, October 21st, 2007 at 1:48 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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