It is without trouble that I picked out Curtis Harding’s second album as one of my favourites this year. In addition to reminding me of soul music’s veneration, Face Your Fear quite impressed me with its musical distinction; the songs are as deeply moving as they are fiery. The album also arrested my attention with its open and fearless emotional immediacy. With hindsight, I see how 2017 was one hell of an emotional roller coaster on my part.
Face Your Fear has interesting effects and it begins with a cultivated tone in Wednesday Morning Atonement the first single off the album. “Hello children/ well it’s been, such a very long time/ now I’ve finally found the mind/ to explain, where I’ve been living” – if initially I found this to talk about an (his) absentee father, I also pondered on whether Curtis was singing about his long musical hiatus.
Not for nothing is the title track to be admired. The song has a highly wrought potency as it advises us on facing whatever life throws at us. “If you’re afraid of the grave, be brave and just pick up the phone/ I know how it gets everyone’s sun sets baby you’re not alone/ if you look away from your day I’d just say so long” – courage and determination are two sides of the same coin; Face Your Fear subtly captures the dread and hesitations that come with each.
On and On and Go As You Are both manage to evoke ideas and inspiration to keep moving even as they channel introspection. Additionally, relayed in a style that has been categorized as psychedelic soul, I like how the music dances in Go As You Are. Beneath the finger-snapping and ritzy charm of remembering the good times the singer shared with his girl, Till the End is a story of hurting, endurance and undying love.
I implore you to listen to Need Your Love and do not doubt how he fittingly and ardently describes a longing. There is a captivating bass and drumming that beautifully comes alive and where I think there’s a lot that could have been done with Curtis’ vocals here, the soul shouting was lively and fantastic. This longing is also projected on Dream Girl whose melody I thought quite ethereal and on Welcome To My World where, beyond a passing nod, I struggled to find anything exceptional and inviting.
The setting for Ghost of You is rather icy and you can tell this by the music’s soft and sad motif. For me, the lyrics and vocals only come to sentimentalise a creation that is already sentimental. *Shucks* What could be more capable of helping us find light than someone or something that we can bank on? Need My Baby is one such confession; “I get so tired of heart ache and stress/ so I reach out to you for your tenderness/ cause you got that something that it’s all about” – the song is certainly given its due by the relationship between the words and its timbre.
Curtis’ grace and conviction are beautifully married in As I Am, an alluring single which I feel with and for him. The way in which he sings about his passion and struggles is not just soulful but also, in my opinion, powerful. It is not the album’s most radical single but it is definitely hinting at his acknowledging both the gloominess and optimism that comes with what he does.
With Harding, I like to believe that the classic and soulful funk of the 60-70s is back to lift our spirits as it did back then with Mayfield! So, get your musical ears ready for more standout albums from he, and hopefully from more standout artists as he!