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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Jul
Sounds like … a mellower pop version of Christafari's reggae, coupled with jazz, R&B, acoustic pop, and world influences that have drawn comparisons to Sade and Norah Jones.At a glance … though Avion Blackman and her husband Mark Mohr dabble in a variety of sounds and styles that orbit her jazzy reggae focus, the songs themselves end up sounding a little too homogenous overall. Track Listing I Love You Father Onyinye Marvelous Beauty I Thank You Show Me Sweet Love Blue Life You're Not Alone You'll Return I'm Sorry Heaven Above Give Me Life

Few artists have as unique a back-story as Avion Blackman. Originally from Trinidad, she's the daughter of famed calypso artist Lord Shorty, credited as "the inventor of Soca and Jamoo music." When her father converted to Christianity, the family (including all 25 children!) relocated to the jungle, living off the land like the Swiss Family Robinson. Home-schooled with plenty of musical experience, she now resides in Los Angeles as the bassist/vocalist for reggae band Christafari, married to lead singer and producer Mark Mohr. This helped prepare Blackman for her solo debut Onyinye, which is pronounced "Oh-neen-yay" and means "gift" in the Nigerian language of Igbo.

Playing guitar, bass, and percussion alongside an array of musical talent, Blackman's sound is almost as varied as her upbringing. Comparisons to Sade and Norah Jones refer more to her voice than her sound, which is best characterized by songs like "I Love You Father" and "I Thank You"—simple pop melodies, worshipful lyrics, and light reggae arrangements, topped with some jazzy saxophone. Blackman and Mohr also dabble in a variety of styles and instrumentation, touching on smooth R&B ("Blue," reminiscent of Barry White) and acoustic pop ("I'm Sorry") while also delving into world music like Latin ("You're Not Alone"), Indian ("Heaven Above"), and African ("Onyinye").

This world music hybrid won't appeal to everyone, though Blackman's straightforward lyricism makes it more palatable for less adventurous tastes, providing obvious expressions of worship ("Marvelous Beauty"), struggles ("Life"), and romance ("Sweet Love"). Yet as relatively unique and varied as the sound and instrumentation are, there's something a little too low-key and homogenous about it all—if the first 2-3 tracks don't grab your attention, the other 10-11 probably won't either. There are some who will surely appreciate Onyinye, however, and both Blackman and Mohr deserve credit for intertwining faith and art in their own way.

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