Asa - Asha

Will Metcalfe 24/03/2008

Rating: 4/5

With summer coming it feels like there is a lack of genuinely uplifting, soulful music in the UK top 40. However, the emergence of Asa makes it seem as if the drought may be about to end; you see Asa sounds like Lauren Hill playing Bob Marley songs. Her warm, rich vocals deliver lyrics with disarming sweetness. Opener 'Jailer' is reggae lite a la Corinne Bailey Rae seems a little bit cooler or at least a little less loathsome than her platinum selling stable mate.

At this stage I think it's important to state that Asa is definitely not your average 'as seen on This Morning' singer songwriter. Despite her youth there is a genuine depth to her songs both lyrically and musically; by the time that this record has run its course you will have experienced the jaunty reggae of the opening track ('Jailer'), soothing serenades ('Bibanke') and gentle, rich lullabies ('Awe'). Variation on a similar theme is key it would seem, yet this is no bad thing. Whilst 'Asha' is closer to the kind of record you'd expect to find in your mum's car stereo than your own it makes a strong case to be acknowledged, and rightly so. As a record it is incredibly difficult to fault, so what if the productions 'too clean'-it just wouldn't sound right recorded on an 8 track by Steve Albini, in fact that would be bizarre. In fact the production suits this record perfectly, smooth and rich it really emphasises the tone of Asa's vocals, which really drives the songs.

The triumphs of this album come from the acceptance of its own limits but not in a begrudging way. In making a straight forward record with vocals, guitar and simple percussion Asa has emerged with a record that sounds deep and soulful where many of her contemporaries are left holding a facsimile of their aspirations. The delivery, the instrumentation-it all fits perfectly and whilst the record may not be perfect itself the overall feel is rife with authenticity, something that can elude even the most practiced performer.