The Iladelph has always been a breeding ground for great music, from the O’Jays to the Roots. Thus it is appropriate that the town which produced the family-loving Intruders – who memorably crystallized the Philly soul sound with their classic “I’ll Always Love My Mama” – has now given music the husband-and-wife team Kindred the Family Soul, contemporary soul’s latest champions and innovators. Comprised of Fatin Dantzler, Aja Graydon and their 10-piece band, Kindred’s Surrender to Love is an auspicious 14-track musical adventure that draws upon various genres and eras, blending together diverse elements into a coherent and melodic gem.

Todd Weiser

The record’s lead single, “Far Away,” hints at the duo’s sincere appreciation for music and deft songwriting ability. Boasting Fatin’s soothing voice, Aja’s soulful vocals, a wonderful strings arrangement and one robust guitar solo, “Far Away” is a subtly energetic paean that examines the complicated lives that two people in love must navigate given the complications that result from external demands.

The rest of the tracks on Surrender are equally involved and intricate, and the battery of musical influences that Kindred readily cites in interviews and bios are clear when one contrasts “Party’s Over” – a track that infuses hip-hop with an Earth, Wind and Fire vibe – with “Don’t Wanna Suffer (Carbon Copy)” – a song teeming with funk energy and James Brown-type horns. Music lovers will find Kindred’s beautiful blend of styles endlessly entertaining, as they will likely marvel at the obvious connections that can be made to distinct artists like Steely Dan and Roy Ayers.

Surrender is an easy listen, as well, and those less inclined toward attentive listening will find that Kindred has made a wonderfully ambient record that can establish a relaxed tone – in the car, at work, at home – without the overt sexuality of Jodeci or the monotonous sterility of Surface.

The record’s primary deficiency is that some songs seem too tired. There is a fine line between mellow and bland, and Kindred unfortunately passes from the former to the latter at times, like on “What Happens Now.” Thankfully, these musical transgressions are limited in number and frequency: There are no dead spots on this record where, for instance, three songs in sequence are all unappealing.

That phenomenon is all too common in R&B, a genre that suffers from too many hackneyed songs and disposable records. However, Kindred successfully avoids the pitfall and delivers a soul-music lover’s playground in which he or she can get lost in the instrumental intricacy and vocal dexterity.

Rating: 4 Stars

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