Published Mar 07, 2014Life must feel good for Aloe Blacc (born Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III) in the post-Avicii era. After toiling away for nearly 20 years, the California native has had minor success — counting his hip-hop Emanon days and more notably the single "I Need A Dollar" off 2010's Good Things — but nothing like what "Wake Me Up" has done for his career. Lift Your Spirit finds Blacc with a bit of swagger in his step, and he acknowledges as much on single "The Man": "Go ahead and tell everybody/ I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man."
His folksy-soul Bill Withers by way Sam Cooke vocals and lyricism are nothing new, but the project finds Blacc doing a soft reboot of sorts, as he introduces his sound to his new fan base. Blacc is who he is, and expecting something completely fresh and new, rather than fresh and familiar is perhaps wrongheaded. See "The Hand is Quicker" for that Bill Withers-esque sound long-time fans know and love.
"The Man" comes off as an old Elton John remake — it's not — and "Wake Me Up" makes an inevitable appearance, this time in acoustic form. "Red Velvet Seat" is a smooth, vintage Blacc track, but the '60s strut of "Can You Do This" is perhaps a creative overreach. Overall, the "catered for radio" quotient has been kicked up. The end result is lot of poppy (sappy?) inspirational grooves: see the title track or "Eyes of a Child." Lift Your Spirit is rather formulaic from that standpoint — not as spicy or daring as past efforts — but it's folksy, soulful, and groovy enough to catch your attention. (Universal)