Carmen Rodgers – The Bitter Suite -Review

16 08 2010

Sound the trumpets! Carmen Rodgers is back with one of the most fascinating and substantive releases of 2010. And it’s only an EP!

It’s been six years since Carmen released Free, a decidedly neo-soul affair produced by SoulCuts favourite Geno Young. We loved it and the soul cognoscenti universally agreed that Carmen was destined for big things. She was the next Jill Scott, they all said. And then…well, the years passed without so much as a guest spot, until the release of The Bitter Suite EP earlier this Summer.

The Bitter Suite is a thematically and musically coherent EP. It documents the breakdown of a relationship through uncompromising lyrics set to a thick jazz, hip-hop and soul gumbo. Five songs deep, interspersed by some real talk that would have any eavesdropping man tiptoeing back out the door pronto, it sounds like a wholly personal release, raw with emotion.

Take a listen to the jazzy Never Again right here!

The production puts Carmen’s voice centre-stage. It’s a winning approach, allowing her rich, calming tones to lull the unsuspecting listener into a relaxed state before delivering the adroit killer punch of those bittersweet lyrics. The EP’s also musically rich, taking in deep neo-soul-tinged grooves (It’s Me, Tell Your Story), acoustic soul (the delightful Home), jazz-dance (the subtle complexity of Never Again) and some spacey jazz balladry (the haunting Better U Than Me). It’s also far from commercial. Hell, Carmen’s vocal styling on Better U Than Me even reminds me of Flora Purim in places, and we ain’t ever seen her shaking her rump at the VMAs!

If I were to single out a track for particular attention, it would have to be It’s Me. It’s an expertly crafted cut on which the vocal performance, music, production and lyrics hang together perfectly. The repetitious, chugging, slow funk groove captures the mood of the lyrics, while Carmen’s laid-back performance, repeating the same lines over and over, conveys the emotion in the lyric more powerfully than any vocal histrionics could. It may require repeated listens to unlock its qualities but I just can’t get enough of this tune.

Take a listen to the the EP highlight, It’s Me, right here!

The Bitter Suite is a triumphant return from Carmen Rodgers. It’s a thick slice of jazzy soul, delivered with style and substance that leaves us desperate for more. Fortunately, it’s only the precursor to Carmen’s full album, Intermission, due sometime later this year. Do yourself a favour, get over to iTunes and tell ’em SoulCuts sent ya.

For more information on Carmen Rodgers, go straight to You know it makes sense!




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