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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Sweet Life

  • reviewed by Andrea Dawn Goforth Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Oct
Sweet Life
Sounds like … the reggae backbone of Christifari with limbs of acoustic R&B influences like Sade, India Arie, and Lauryn Hill.At a glance … Avion Blackman trades in some of her pop influences for a more island inspired album, but Sweet Life could use a boost to get out of its repetitive mid-tempo rut.Track ListingYouSweet LifeAt One MentYeshuaGot to beLonging for the DayIt is for FreedomZabumbaAs we TumbleForgivenessStrength to StrengthDo you Ever?Day and NightNo one but You

There's just something refreshing about Avion Blackman. Maybe it's her India Arie type confidence that says, "I know who I am as a person and an artist." Maybe it's her intriguing history as the daughter of Lord Shorty, a famous Calypso musician known as the father of Soca music. Or maybe her sound benefits from being married to Mark Mohr, the creative force behind Christian reggae band Christafari. Whatever it is, Blackman's sound is inviting and draws the listener in on her latest album, Sweet Life.

The perfect word to describe Blackman's sound here is breezy—you may feel the Caribbean wind wisp through your cubical or compact car as you spin this disc. Her first single "Yeshua" accurately represents this album with the acoustic guitar finger picking the island melody and hand drums creating the reggae signature sound.

Blackman's first album, Onyinye, offered an array of influences with pop and R&B being main players. Sweet Life provides hints of pop with the India Arie-meets-Sade style of "You", and some R&B with "Strength to Strength," but the album is carried much more by reggae musical techniques ("At-One-Ment," "Got to Be", "Forgiveness") than her previous work. While it is nice to hear Avion get rootsy on this album, her lack of variety and consistently mid-tempo songs really make this 14-song album drag. A few surprises would have been welcomed.

However, a big part of Blackman's appeal is the simple but eloquent lyrical content. From the perspective of an everyday person, Blackman examines walking daily with the Lord ("Got to Be") and finding strength through him ("Strength to Strength"). The lack of ego in Blackmans lyrics makes the music relatable and approachable to the listener. Even in the music video released for single "Yeshua," Blackman doesn't seem like your usual musician or video girl. You won't see many smiling faces in the average music videos or band photos these days, but Blackman's smile shines throughout—a smile that says the God she is singing to is a reason to be joyful.

If you don't feel that Caribbean breeze by the second or third song on this album, then you probably won't in the latter tracks. Sweet Life is pretty consistent in feel from beginning to end, and that can be both good and bad. Since Blackman got a little more rootsy this time around, maybe with each album we will see more of her island style. If Onyinye was the first step in finding her voice and creativity, then Sweet Life is definitely step two.

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