Don’t let anyone tell you that that “nothing’s free” in life. Dublin singer Laura Izibor is offering her new single, “Don’t Stay,” at no charge on the iTunes web site this week!
It is a taste from her debut album, Let the Truth Be Told, which is also offered on the popular downloading site for a bargain at $7.99.
Don’t let the pale skin and inability to dance fool you -- our motherland has churned out its fair share of people with soul to spare. The Commitments is still one of the best soul albums for my money, Republic of Loose mix funk grooves with a classic R&B vibe, while Van Morrison is singlehandedly responsible for providing the soundtrack of conception for countless babies with his unique brand of blue eyed Celtic soul music.
"The foundation begins with soul," explains 20-year-old singer/songwriter/producer Izibor in her press release when asked to describe her passionate, piano-guided songs.
On Let the Truth Be Told, Izibor continues the lineage set out by “neo soul” artists like Lauryn Hill and Jill Scott by bringing modern sensibilities with early R&B influences.
A few years ago, Samantha Mumba tried to peddle herself as a soulful, dark-skinned Irishwoman, but she was a mere paper tiger unleashed by boy band impresario Louis Walsh. Make no mistake -- Izibor has more soul in her pinky than Westlife, Boyzone and Mumba combined.
“You’re my light in the dark,” she coos on “Mmm,” a gospel-tinged track, which finds the sultry singer sounding like Alicia Keys begging for redemption after a night roughing up her voice with whiskey and cigarettes.
Like Keys, Izibor sings from the perspective of a woman way beyond her years, but unlike Keys, she dispenses with dramatic vocal gymnastics in favor of playing it straight and sexy.
On “Yes (I’ll Be Your Baby)” she purrs and growls her way through a shuffling beat and a horn-infused melody to create a hot slow jam. She drains the drama out of the string section and sends her lover packing on the last track, the heartfelt “I Don’t Want You Back.”
Born to a working class family in Dublin, Izibor admits she didn't grow up in a musical household.
"My mother raised five kids on her own, so there wasn't much time to buy records,” she says. “It wasn't that kind of home. I found myself fancying music at about 13."
From there, she ingested a steady diet of Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flack and Marvin Gaye. Izibor won a prestigious national performance competition, the "2FM Song Contest," sponsored by the 2FM radio station, which lead to the recording of her debut album.
She recorded Let the Truth Be Told over the course of four years in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Dublin. She performed the songs onstage while in the recording process, opening for acts like James Brown, Angie Stone and the Roots.
Let the Truth Be Told’s title, according to the singer, "felt like a strong, almost biblical statement," she explains. "I've written this album because it's my truth. It's a sincere record and it has a feel of survival in it as well. I didn't want to be anybody's protégé; I wanted it to be 100% from me."
Like all artists, Izibor hopes this album resonates with the listener.
"I hope people take away a sense of honesty and realness in the record,” she says. “They're just songs written from a really sincere place, and hopefully people can connect to it on some level and relate their own lives to it as well."
The trouble is, the listener might like the songs on Let the Truth Be Told, but they will likely forget who brought them these tunes by the end of the album.
While the songwriting is impressive, Izibor has to work on defining her style so that she can break out of the dark and long shadows of artists like Erykah Badu and Jill Scott in the neo soul category.
On “The Worst Is Over,” for example, Izibor sounds like she’s in Holiday Inn hell at a Whitney Houston karaoke tournament.
But let’s cut her a break. The kid is only 20 years old, and if the artistic promise on Let the Truth Be Told is any indication, Izibor has a long career in front of her.
“Make everything so simple in a crazy world/and I'm try to find the words to say/you make everything alright just by being around/boy you make me wanna sing,” she pleads on “Mmm.”
Whoever that boy might be, we owe him a debt of gratitude for igniting the creative spark that makes this debut burn hot more often than not.
Izibor is one artist to watch, as the buzz is growing beyond iTunes. Her impossibly cut cheekbones and playful persona is on full display in her music videos that are a YouTube sensation, and her songs are also featured on Grey's Anatomy, The Hills, and The Nanny Diaries.
She is finishing up a tour of the Midwest this week, but will return to the U.S. this fall in support of John Legend’s tour. To buy her album on the cheap while you still can, log onto www.lauraizibor.com.