Lari White has a very sultry voice. Soft, clear, laid-back and sultry. On first hearing it would be easy to dismiss most of the songs on Green Eyed Soul as easy listening – they’re as soothing as a cool breeze on a hot night. Until you listen closely, that is.
Raised in Florida with a hellfire-preacher grandfather and a father who played electric guitar in a rock ‘n roll band, White grew up surrounded by gospel, R & B and artists such as Ray Charles, Al Green and Stevie Wonder.
A classically trained singer and pianist, she won a scholarship to the University of Miami, at that time leading in terms of music technology and training, and majored in music engineering. Not just a pretty voice, then – as three Grammys attest.
Having made a highly successful career singing country, Green Eyed Soul takes Lari White back closer to her roots, mixing classic soul and R & B for a sensuous set of songs about love and the loss of innocence.
While opener (and first single) Nothing But Love is sweet but forgettable, the second track is anything but.
Eden Before The Fall starts with dreamy soft chords and moody guitar, leading in to the most seductive song I’ve heard in years. Every lyric is perfect: “Coal-black curls and a dimple in his chin / a swagger in his walk and a sideways grin / Even Elvis himself had nothing on him / the boy couldn’t be denied… his daddy’s in the pulpit shouting fury and fire / we’re sneaking out the back door behind the choir / and it couldn’t be wrong because it was pure desire…” Great stuff. Coupled with a gorgeous soulful melody, this is one of those rare songs that at just over four minutes is way too short.
Loved Right is another sensual song – “You ain’t never had the real thing, you ain’t never been loved right, the way I’m gonna love you…” while Lets Keep It Together has darker undertones as a woman tries to prevent the break-up of a relationship, but the sound is still seductive.
Almost every track reveals an impressive blend of classy lyrics and musical talent. One More Time is a classic example. “…I bet I let you in again because its just one more drop in the bucket / one more tear I’ve cried / one more thing I love to hate about you…” Some great backing vocals and slinky organ make this track another standout.
Because I’m A Woman is a no-nonsense recital of the inequalities that still divide the sexes. “And if my skirt’s too short then I’m asking for it, that’s how the story goes / I’m guilty if I like it up and I’m guilty if it shows / I live with a fear that no man ever knows / because I’m a woman”. It could be heavy stuff but it manages to be funny and straight talking at the same time, with a delightful funky beat. And there is a hopeful thought too: “But give me good love and I blossom like a flower…”
Lari White is impressive, there’s no doubt. This standard of song-writing coupled with such musical assurance is rare, and this album is so much more than easy listening that I can’t believe I ever thought that. Not all the tracks are the same standard – that really would be asking too much – but the blander ones will still make great late-night music.