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Anticipated Atlanta soul releases of 2011

The scene jump-starts a new decade with resurgence of vets and newcomers

Ringo Starr may not be your favorite ex-Beatle, but surely you'll excuse Avery*Sunshine if she begs to differ. Back in April, during her visit across the pond, the independent Atlanta soul singer caught Starr's eye, and ear, with a stirring performance of her single "I Got Sunshine" on BBC's "Later with Jools Holland." When Holland asked Starr who he'd sign if he had a label, Starr looked past Swedish alt-pop diva Lykke Li and Pitchfork-approved Brit folk upstarts the Unthanks before declaring, "Seems like everyone likes a little Sunshine."

It served as confirmation, not only for Avery*Sunshine and her stellar 2010 self-titled debut, but for Atlanta's enduring soul legacy. Originally considered the bridesmaid to the city's mainstream R&B hit factory (think: former LaFace Records acts Usher, TLC, Toni Braxton), the progressive movement had cultural cachet long before plumbing the depths of its commercial potential. The soul scene is experiencing a resurgence after waxing and waning in the decade since coming into international prominence with the debuts of India.Arie, Donnie, and other early acts that emerged from the pioneering Groovement/Earthseed collective (co-founded by WCLK-FM's Jamal Ahmad).

With a string of newcomers and such veterans as Anthony David, Donnie, Heston, Julie Dexter, Slick & Rose, and Khari Cabral Simmons dropping new releases, 2011 is shaping up to be the year of the big payback. So here's a shortlist of anticipated local soul EPs and LPs — just in case Ringo Starr is in dire need of a cheat sheet. — Rodney Carmichael

Donnie
LP title: The American Mythology
Release date: November 11, 2011
Label: Self-release

A decade ago, Atlanta soul heads expected brash singer/songwriter Donnie to be the next big export. But after low sales of his impressive sophomore release, The Daily News (2007), Donnie stepped out of the spotlight to focus instead on self-growth. He describes his independent release, The American Mythology, as an allegorical soundtrack to a musical comedy in which he finally finds a way to laugh at the ridiculousness of the world. — RC


Slick & Rose
EP/LP title: People Will Stare/Ambitious Intellectuals
Release dates: July 2011/December 2011
Label: TBD

After an extended hiatus, veteran duo Slick & Rose is back rocking a brand new bag. Longtime fans may be surprised to hear its playful electro-pop redux, but they won't be disappointed. The duo's sassy, what-have-you-done-for-my-libido-lately single "Breakdown," produced by Sweatbox Productions, practically begs listeners to do the wop. Just don't miss the message, fellas. — Jacinta Howard

Scar Smith
EP title: TBD
Release date: August 2011
Label: Self-release

It's about time talented singer/songwriter Scar Smith stopped throwing assists to the likes of Janelle Monáe, John Legend, and Jamie Foxx long enough to focus on his own project. After label stints with Big Boi's Purple Ribbon and Young Jeezy's CTE, Scar's gone strictly indie to finish his long-awaited R&B/soul debut with the help of frequent collaborator and producer Malay. — JH


Rahbi
LP title: GoldenChild
Release date: Fall 2011
Label: Self-release

The former backup singer for Donnie has been wooing audiences, and notable industry supporters such as Erykah Badu, for four years with his naughty R&B concert series, Strange Fruit. If his studio debut's first single — the PJ-Morton-produced "Rollercoaster" — is a tease of things to come, parental guidance is advised. — RC


BOSCO
LP title: TBD
Release date: Fall 2011
Label: Self-release

BOSCO's washed-out vocals and ambient rock flair may draw comparisons to free-spirited Los Angeles duo J-Davey, but her vision is all her own. Since stretching out of bounds with recent experimental performances and pop-up shows, her new album should undoubtedly benefit from the pressure-free incubation period of the past year. From the sounds of such unreleased gems as the electro psychedelic "What, When, Where...," she's still wearing her emotions on her sleeve, which is when she's most alluring. — JH


Soul of Earth
LP title: Electromagnetic
Release date: July 2011
Label: Self-release

One in a trio of recent global soul/dance funk releases produced by FunkJazz Kafé founder Jason Orr and musical collaborator Craig Love, Electromagnetic captures the vibe of Orr's decade-long run of holistic soul jamborees, with contributing vocals from an international cast of all-stars, including Caron Wheeler, Omar, Dionne Farris, N'Dea Davenport and more. — RC

Mykel
LP title: Love Noize
Release date: September 2011
Label: TBD

Singer/songwriter and guitarist Mykel has been a hook-man for MCs such as Bobby Creekwater and Nas. Come September, he'll make some solo moves with his debut, Love Noize. The Oklahoma City native's progressive R&B sound is laced with alternative undertones, and stretches the gamut from uplifting love ("It's All About You") to stinging social commentary ("War"). — JH


JeBron
LP title: Time of My Life: Full Circle
Release date: July 19, 2011
Label: Ben-jammin Music, LLC

As the label name suggests, JeBron's been jamming, and the singer/songwriter and producer has the debut to prove it. After releasing two well-received EPs, JeBron's pop-infused soul stylings and strong, raspy vocals are on display again with his breezy first single, "Celebrate Life," providing the perfect soundtrack to those sticky summer nights. — JH


Heston
LP title: Warm Human, Cold World
Release date: June 28, 2011
Label: World Soul Music/Dome

Heston puts his grown-man philosophy on love and loss on full display with his third full-length release. While he battles fits of abandonment on "Outside Your Window," he mostly revels in the joys of love over thick, live production. Listeners should emerge from the record nearly as wise as him. — JH




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