Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Album Review: Shirlette and the Dynamite Brothers - And Lovers Like

On the cover of And Lovers Like, a collaboration between Durham Poet/musician Shirlette Ammons and Chapel Hill’s Dynamite Brothers, the name of the album is overwhelmed by names of the EP’s many contributors. At first, the list of names, which includes Kelly Crisp and former Carolina Chocolate Drop Justin Robinson, seems like it will overshadow the music, but as the album progresses the sum becomes greater than the parts.

Shirlette and the Dynamite Brothers flow freely between genres starting mostly with rock, hip hop and R&B early on before transitioning to more reggae and dub. While the more rocking upfront tunes like “The Shakes” and Nevamind” are good, the tone of the album is a better match for the slower pace and smokey drum and bass of dub.

Ammons openly examines queerness and her own sexuality throughout the album. Several times she makes it a point to let the listener know that the time to discuss these issues is now, not later.

“I’ve been talkin’ to my lifeline late at night,” she sings on “Lifeline,” “And I’ve been wondering what’s the right time to get right. And every time I pose the matter the answer is now.”

The time has to be now because, as a later song title says, “Tomorrow Neva Comin’.” “I ain’t met one calendar or a single day upon which time has frozen itself waitin’ on folks to turn the corner,” she raps.

The EP reaches its peak when Ammons' powerful message meets equally powerful music in a seven minute version of the Justin Robinson’s “Kissin’ and Cussin’.” The added rap verses, bass, background singers and effects transform a haunting song into a spellbinding epic.

While big name collaborations can often be gimmicky, And Lovers Like would impress just as much even if listeners didn’t know who played on the album.

Shirlette and the Dynamite Brothers will release And Lovers Like at their Duke Gardens performance on June 29.

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