Album Review: Son Little’s New Magic

by Ayanna Jacobs-El

I discover most of my new artists either through Spotify’s Discover weekly playlist or through NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concerts or playlists. I first heard of Son Little when I heard his song “The River” on NPR Music’s “Songs We Love” 2015 year-end playlist. His husky and soulful voice instantly got my attention. I was also drawn in by the bluesy guitar riff and infectious stomp-clap rhythm of the song. As the song played, I looked on Google to find out who this soulful singer was. This led to my discovery of singer-songwriter, producer, and guitarist Aaron Livingston who goes by the stage name of Son Little. I then listened to equally bluesy and groovy “Your Love Will Blow Me Away When My Heart Aches” and the romantic, slow jam “Lay Down,” which were all on his self-titled debut album Son Little.

Son Little hails from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and has a sound deeply rooted in the traditions of classic blues, soul, gospel, and rock and roll. In his biography, he cites some of his heroes as Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix and his musical sound spans a wide variety of eras while still infusing his own individual flair. In September, he released his second studio album New Magic which he described as a “cohesive creation that captures the diverse spirit of American music in a fresh and modern way.”

There are a number of tracks that I like off his latest release. The clear standout is “Blue Magic (Waikiki).” The song has a breezy, pleasant sound that definitely has summer vibes. It’s all about sharing your gifts and some of the lyrics in the song reference things he learned while visiting the Waikiki neighborhood in Honolulu, Hawaii. I love the catchy chorus that is definitely an ear worm that you will be singing all day long. This track is definitely more poppy compared to the rest of the album which is more grounded in blues, soul, and R&B.

On a darker note, there’s “Mad About You.” Like all of Son Little’s songs, there is a very prominent acoustic guitar part that plays memorable lines throughout. I love the entire vibe of this song. In it, you can sense his blues roots by hearing the pain in his voice and listening closely to the storytelling nature of the lyrics. The tune is about someone he fell deeply in love with, only to have his heart broken when they left him all alone. The groove on this song is super tight and the melody rolls effortlessly over the mellow organ chords and guitar licks.

A very funky, playful, and upbeat cut off New Magic is “Bread & Butter.” Son Little probably would have fit right in with the heavyweights of the 60s and 70s because his voice is so well suited for these retro styles and his lyrics are super clever and catchy. “The Middle” is another outstanding song that features a contemplative and melancholy fiddle solo that really makes the song, for me. The song is all about being fed up with living in misery and how the speaker deals with his pain by drinking. I think the overall vibe perfectly captures this unpleasant state of being in a song that is still enjoyable to listen to.

New Magic ends with the beautifully haunting “Deamon To The Dark.” This song has a strong Gospel feel and the story behind the song is a conversation Son Little had with a blind musician from the early 20th century named Washington Phillips. Phillips was also a church deacon whose music allowed,  “Son Little to find a source of forgiveness as well as an inspiration to carry on.”

Son Little has a strong sound and identity that has resonated with many fans. If you haven’t listened to his music yet, be sure to check out the songs mentioned in this article and consider seeing him if he stops in a city near you on his current international tour.

HAVE YOU HEARD OF SON LITTLE BEFORE? LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK OF HIS MUSIC AND NEW ALBUM COMMENTS!

 

 

 

About the Author

Ayanna Jacobs-El
Ayanna Jacobs-El is a composer, producer, songwriter, singer, alto and baritone saxophonist, and DJ dual majoring in Contemporary Writing and Production and Professional Music with a minor in Writing for TV and New Media. You can learn more about Ayanna and hear her music by visiting www.ayannajacobsel.com.