The origins of African American music fusion and culture.
Flying in from leftfield compared to my usual musical tastes, Dominique Fils-Aimé managed to bridge some really unusual gaps in music. ‘Three Little Words’ is the final album in a trilogy that explores the origins of African-American music. Whilst she pulls in jazz, soul, R&B and urban elements to her music, her unique voice and penchant for darker tones mean she crosses over more genres and tones than you’d initially think.
You wouldn’t think an album full of doo-wops and ba-ba-ba-ba’s would be able to use that soulful simplicity to then springboard off into different feelings but its something Fils-Aimé does with ease. From the 60’s soul of ‘You Left Me’ we get a catchy ditty that could conquer easy listening radio with ease. ‘Grow Mama Grow’ then infuses Eygptian strings and rhythms into a cinematic African-Western anthem. Between them sits ‘While We Wait’ that effortlessly transitions from vocal bebop to powerhouse R&B with a plea of ‘you can be the change’ as a resounding lyric.
As the album hits its stride, Dominque’s voice is the thread that holds everything together. She is effortlessly smooth and warming to listen to. She knows exactly when to push her voice forward and the production allows her to sit nestled in a great selection of backing vocals. This allows her hybrid of bluesy soul-pop really shine with the smoky ‘Could It Be’ and ‘Mind Made Up’. What I also enjoy is that Fils-Aimé likes to take chord progression road less driven. On piano and vocal ballad ‘Fall and All’, there are a few interesting twists to the melody and these twists pop up throughout. The jazz influence here of throwing in a 7th or minor chord in an unusual place is strong. It gives extra personality too.
As an album that pulls from African musical heritage, there are references to African instruments spread across the album. ‘Could It Be’, and more overtly, ‘Love Take Over’ play with giant tom drums and hand percussion. Even the odd didgeridoo pops up! Vocal and atmospherics short piece ‘Tall Lion Down’ expertly mixes soul and African chant together to bridge the two genres. This comes to full realisation with the vocalisation and drum piece ‘Three Little Words’. Dominique Fils-Aimé somehow manages to make something sound ancient, tribal, ancestral but also totally smooth like butter. It may not be to everyone’s taste as perhaps you might want to really have the drums pound but that’s not what Dominique’s sound is about. She also ensures that her sound is smeared and plushie soft. From the organs, strings and hushed voices of ‘Home To Me’ to the finger snap R&B of ‘We Are Light’ – the sound is unified as a cohesive sheen.
If I had one tiny critique of the album it is that quite a few of the 14 tracks end a little quickly and the shorter tracks are structured towards the end of the album. This is where most of the culturally merged sounds occur too. If wanting more of something is the only critique, that speaks volumes about the album.
‘Three Little Words’ rounds off a superb trilogy of albums and this is possibly the most impressive to date. An album of love, unity, identity and bridging divides, it closes out with a bare but open hearted cover of ‘Stand By Me’. We stand. We do indeed stand.
Recommended track: While We Wait
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