4 out of 5
Produced by: Son Little, Dave Sardy, various
Throughout Son Little’s debut, self-titled album, you’ll likely find yourself humming along on your first listen. While certain types of music counts on familiarity, leading our ears with rhythms and melodies we instinctually can recognize, Son Little’s tracks – aka those of Aaron Livingston – are a step beyond that, treading in the bog of tried and true blues and soul staples, crooned via the singer’s husky voice and mixed to life by a cadre of mostly solo-played instruments. But I’d say this is all pretty purposeful: the lyrical ground over which Son Little walks is also quite familiar, with tales of life’s troubles and loves found and lost. On top of this template, though, is the modern update, with everything translated through a slightly electronic wash – beats blend between the organic and digital; guitar licks are clean and then fuzzy. And those words, while crooned with a passion that’s recognizable, err toward being slightly more mysterious than the norm. It’s nothing too deep, necessarily, and most tracks are just a few repeated phrases, but it drives home the feeling of Livingston’s work being a reinterpretation of the Tried and True, touched by today’s (or 2015’s) notes of uncertainty.
The overall reliance on familiarity and topical generalism definitely lends the disc easy and instant appeal, but also doesn’t give it a set identity; when Livingston takes a few steps away from this and adds some further layers to his tracks – Carbon; Go Blue Blood Red – the artist’s work becomes a hitch more driving and impressive, stacking up all of his influences (and experience in the industry) into something that feels more unique and true. That’s not to take away from how solid and emotive the album is overall, though – Son Little impresses with its consistency, and ability to sweep us up in rhythm and texture, whether it’s hanging around with tunes we already know, or working on new and funky ones.