Son Little (photo by Anthony Saint James, courtesy of ANTI-, PR)
Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Son Little has revealed his talents over the past few years through a series of collaborations and the gradual release of his own material. His 2014 EP, Things I Forgot, was his first significant artistic statement and now comes his self-titled debut album that fulfills the promise of his earlier work.
Little, the former Aaron Livingston, was born in Los Angeles, moving with his family to New York City, and eventually settling in Philadelphia. While in Philadelphia, Little got to know members of the Roots and he appeared on their 2011 album, Undun. That same year, he teamed up with RJD2 to form the band Icebird, releasing one album, The Abandoned Lullaby. In 2013, he also appeared on RJD2’s album, More Is Than Isn’t.
Little’s music defies categorization, incorporating elements of soul and touched with rhythm and blues, electronica, hip hop, gospel, blues, and indie rock. These diverse influences are on full display on Son Little. Synthesized vocals, backwards guitar, and bare bones production make “I’m Gone” a stunning opening song. The use of sparse instrumentation and production proves to be an effective tool, as evidenced on the intensely personal “Your Love Will Blow Me Away.” “Carbon” is a bluesy rocker as is “Loser Blues,” a slow burning, sinister number, punctuated by a sizzling guitar solo.
Elsewhere, “The River” throws down a stomping gospel groove and “Lay Down” is a pure piece of modern soul. “Go Blue Blood Red” incorporates elements of reggae. Little taps into early influences on “O Mother,” a vintage slice of soul that reaches back to the seminal work of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye.
By creating music that disregards the restrictions of categories, Little sets himself apart from the myriad of soul-infused artists that have been emerging in recent years. This self-titled debut album encapsulates who Little is and gives hints at what he might become.